Overcoming Barriers to Higher Education in California

The outstanding panel of UCB students describing how they overcame serious barriers to reach the university and succeed there. Recorded Feb 15 by Ken Bukowski.

To listen to individual students, go to following time points: Rodrigo Corona 6:22-12:11; Dylan Gallagher 12:11-11:05; Hallie Leonhardy 22:05-26:03; Sarah Funes 26;03-35:07; Claudia Campos 35:07-44-15; Javier Perez 44:46-58:43; Adena Ishii 58-43-1:06:50; Virginia Ramirez 1:07-1:14:31. Q & A follows to 1:51.

The panel of seven University of California Berkeley students discusses how they overcame academic and financial difficulties to reach and thrive at the university. The students come from varied backgrounds and faced many hurdles to earn a college degree–among them drug and gang involvement, low income and seriously ill and dying parents. Some were accepted into the UC system directly from high school while others transferred from community colleges.

All of these students were helped by a variety of mentoring, training and financial programs, Some were assisted by the transfer program created by Adena Ishii and others have recruited by Sara Funes, a junior transfer and currently UC Berkeley’s “Vote Everywhere” ambassador. Funes is also a member of the LWVC committee responsible for the Study Guide for our consensus meetings (to be held in March) that will result in new LWVC policy on public higher education.student panel left side

from left Rodrigo Corona Flores, Dylan Gallagher, Hallie Leonhardy

Student panel right side 2 b-sm

from left Sarah Funes, Claudia Campos, Javier Perez, Adena Ishii, and Virginia Ramirez

The forum was presented by the League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville as part of its participation in a current state-wide study of access to and funding of higher education in California. We will be inviting members of our sister Leagues in the East Bay and San Francisco. All are welcome to join the discussion at this free, public and accessible meeting. Come at noon with a bag lunch and with your questions. This promises to be one of the most stimulating meetings of the new year, as well as an occasion demonstrating the success of the community outreach efforts of our own LWVBAE.

Adena Ishii and students

Adena Ishii, center, and the Transfer Service Community team

Panelists were:

Adena Ishii, in center of photo, left high school after the 10th grade to enroll in community college. She has since graduated from Berkeley City College and the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She will report on the program she and others created to advise and assist local community college students on how to transfer to UC Berkeley and to thrive there.

Virginia Ramirez and Claudia Campos, who enrolled in UC Berkeley directly from Kennedy High School in Richmond, discussed their experiences coming from modest homes and as the first to attend college in their families.

The son of Mexican immigrants with limited English skills who had not completed high school, Javier Perez graduated from a West Contra Costa County high school. With assistance from a local foundation, Javier won a full scholarship to Cal. He discussed his experiences so far, as a first year student in Engineering/Computer Science.

Rodrigo Corona Flores, now a junior at UC Berkeley, is planning a career in Social Work or Education. He described how he overcame a difficult childhood, school struggles, and drug involvement.

Sarah Funes, currently a senior majoring in Political Science at UC Berkeley, transferred from San Mateo Community College. With over nine years experience in public service, Sarah is now an intern in the Oakland office of Senator Barbara Boxer.

Dylan Gallagher took a circuitous route to be an English major at UC Berkeley–from Monte Vista High School to Diablo Valley Community College, to UC Davis, and then to Berkeley. Dylan recently spent a summer working as a Resident Adviser / Program Assistant at Columbia University in New York City.

Hallie Leonhardy never thought she was interested in math or sciences, but in community college she discovered she loved math and astronomy and, after making up from the many levels of math she has missed, she is a student of astrophysics.


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