Collegiate Corner: El Rancho High School Alumnus Jeffrey Valenzuela

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Being the first in my family to attend a four-year university, a tremendous amount of pressure has been put on me to succeed. I come from a single-parent household in which my mother works various long hours to provide for her four boys. After high school, my two older brothers, Marvin and Alex, had to put a hold on their college education in order to help my mother financially. Thanks to my mother and two older brothers, my family and I were able to live a pretty stable life. However, there was never really enough money to take a family vacation or buy and enjoy luxurious items. As a family, we understood our financial situation. We knew it was more important to pay for things that were a necessity, such as groceries, school supplies and bills.

At some point, during my studies at El Rancho High School, I felt that I would also have to put a hold on my college education to help my family. When I spoke of this idea to my mother, she told me, “focus on getting into a great college and being a good role model for your little brother, Randy, instead of worrying about the bills.” As much as I wanted to help my mom by getting a job, I knew what she told me would be better in the long run. Getting a degree from a great college could lead to a well-paying career in the future and this in turn would help me to have a stable financial life. I’d plan to have enough to help repay my mother for all the sacrifices she has made for me. It also helped that I stayed home, with my mom and my brothers working constantly, Randy and I were left alone usually every day of the week. It became my responsibility to raise and babysit him and to ensure he did all his homework.

While being an adult figure for my little brother, I also tried to keep my promise to my mother to do well in school by getting straight A’s whenever possible. I balanced my schoolwork while participating in two sports, soccer and track. I must admit that it was very challenging to balance all of these activities throughout high school but I’m so glad I was able to do it.

Every time I was at a soccer game, a track meet, or an award ceremony, it was very heartbreaking being one of the few kids whose parents or family could not show up because they were too busy with work. It often made my mother very sad to not witness me accepting an academic award or sport medal at a social event. I often hid these occasions from her in order to prevent her from feeling depressed about missing some of her son’s best moments in high school.

Although I got good grades throughout high school, I always felt that if I didn’t get into a prestigious university, that all my hard work would have gone to waste. Therefore, at the beginning of my senior year, I searched for as much information about applying to college as I could. I couldn’t look to my older brothers for help since they didn’t go to four-year colleges. Luckily, El Rancho High School heavily promoted the Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera program. This organization was heavily devoted to helping students get into college. They held various workshops that discussed the college application process and how to apply for financial aid, along with offering various scholarships for students to take advantage of.

Without the help of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera, I would have never felt comfortable applying to big name schools without worrying about being rejected or not being able to afford tuition. This organization has played a significant role in my decision to apply to UCLA, where I am currently a Sophomore and studying biology. My hopes are to become a doctor in the near future.