Brenda Espinoza, currently a student at Mendocino College and CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) participant, is one of four current CAMP students in the nation to be selected in the National HEP/CAMP Association Internship Program. She will travel to Washington, D.C. and take part in an eight-week internship program from June 9 through August 11, 2012, in the offices of Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, Migrant Education, and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Brenda will receive air fare and housing accommodations during her Washington D.C. stay, a clothing allowance, and a $3,000 stipend.
When asked about this opportunity, Brenda said, "Being selected as one of the 2012 HEP/CAMP Washington D.C. interns is such an honor, especially coming from the rural Anderson Valley, California." Brenda heard about the opportunity from reading the CAMP Fall 2011 Newsletter, overseen by Minerva Flores, CAMP Director at Mendocino College. When she expressed interest, both Minerva and Alicia Mendoza, CAMP Counselor, prompted her to apply, telling her she would probably be the best candidate. They were right!
Brenda always looked for opportunities outside Mendocino County because "I had never experienced what it feels like to move. My parents worked hard every single day to give my sister and I an opportunity to a better education that was denied to them. I have never taken this for granted. I work hard myself in school in order to achieve what they were unable to achieve themselves. Because of what they have done for me, I have received so many opportunities to advance, such as this wonderful internship to Washington D.C."
Her mother's influence in her education began early; Brenda remembers back in grade school, they taught classes in both English and Spanish, but her mother pushed for her to be in an all-English class. "That's how I really learned how to speak English well, from Katie O'Brien's second grade class. Mrs. O'Brien worked with me really well—helped me learn, and awarded me when I learned well. She gave me a book, Frog & Toad, which was all in English. I still have that book," Brenda recalls with a smile.
Brenda excelled in school, and graduated Valedictorian of her High School with a 4.12 GPA. While still in high school, she began taking classes at Mendocino College—Mexican Folkloric Dance and some French. Brenda's Mom drove her from Boonville, and after seeing her daughter enjoying her classes so much, began taking some herself, primarily English and Math. Brenda was also introduced to CAMP while still in high school; when she later enrolled full-time at Mendocino College, she remembered the name and got into the program. Brenda wanted to go to Mendocino College because she wanted to remain close to her family, and felt it would be an easier transition than tackling a four-year college right at the start. Brenda's older sister, who had graduated high school a year before her, was also attending Mendocino College. Both sisters are majoring in Business Administration, having been inspired by their cousin back in Mexico who majored in Business and is now a Mariott hotel manager.
Brenda hopes to graduate in Spring 2013 with her A.A. in Business Administration, and is hoping to maintain her 4.0 GPA. She plans to transfer to Sacramento State University, which has an honors business program. Alicia Mendoza, CAMP Counselor at Mendocino College is checking into the possibilities of Brenda applying to Stanford University, believing Brenda has a chance at getting in.
When asked about her occupational goal, Brenda remembers as a child always wanting to teach. She was inspired by her mother, who was a Teacher's Aide. Teachers at Mendocino College whom she will always remember are Vivian Varela, from her Sociology class and Leslie Banta, a Math Instructor. "They really helped me out!" she remembers.
Brenda can't wait to find out more about what goes on in D.C. and the programs that exist and are available for children of migrant/seasonal farm-working families. She "wants to know what I can do to further help Latino students succeed in school. I have seen many students with great potential drop out of school because they have gotten pregnant or married. I know most of these students could have advanced further in their education if they had received more attention than they received at home."
In the internship application Brenda stated: "In order to ensure my education, I need a support system to help me succeed in school." She knows firsthand that most students in this category lack the attention they need at home because their parents are working hard to support the family. These students are often left at home to take care of younger siblings, making it difficult to get their homework done. Brenda believes "If more programs were created to help these children specifically, they could be more successful in school."
Brenda also had the desire to succeed. "Even before I entered preschool, I told my mother I wanted to do homework just like my big sister was doing in first grade. She bought me flash cards to begin studying, so by the time I entered preschool, I knew how to read during story time." For years, Brenda wanted to help students like these get the attention they need at an early age, and she has found a way to do it: "I currently volunteer at an after school program close to my home. I help children who have just arrived from Mexico learn how to count to 100 and also with their homework." She hopes to give back to her community even further one day by going back to her high school, another high school, or even Mendocino College to help tutor ESL students.
Brenda is truly an inspiring young woman, who no doubt will be influencing other young people in positive ways for many years to come. She believes "this internship will give me a better sense of what goes on in the capital and will inspire me even more to reach back to other Latino students and help them get the support they need to succeed."
Brenda Espinoza, Mendocino College Success Story
Date of interview: May 18, 2012
Writted by Christine Mullis