Skip to main content

Cañada Student Turns Down $10,000 Scholarship to Pursue Dream of Studying Political Economy at UC Berkeley

A Redwood City community college student who lived in an upholstery shop when he was 15 is turning down a $10,000 scholarship to UC Santa Cruz to pursue his educational dream of studying at UC Berkeley.

Carlos Ortega, a student at Cañada College, lived in 12 different homes by the time he was a high school sophomore and eventually moved into an upholstery shop owned by his father's friend, fashioning a mattress out of pieces of foam remnants. He began stealing food, clothes, and car stereos to meet his basic needs but that lifestyle became dangerous so he dropped out of school his senior year to take on a full-time job.

"It's truly an honor and privilege to be offered this scholarship," Ortega said, "but I have been accepted to UC Berkeley, which is my first choice. It's been a dream of mine to study political economy and some of the world's foremost experts in the subject work at Berkeley. I know some people question turning down such a great opportunity but I'm excited to go to Cal."

Ortega is a member of Cañada's Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter, serving as the group's Vice President of Finance. He has earned Dean's List academic honors the past five semesters and was chosen to present original research at this year's community college research symposium. Ortega is 26-years-old, returning to college only after he was able to save enough money to pay tuition.

He grew up in a poor, uneducated household and receives no financial support from his divorced parents. Turning down a $10,000 scholarship is a major decision. "The BOG fee waiver and Pell Grant have allowed me to work a little less and better concentrate on my studies at Cañada," he said. Still, Ortega estimates he works 30+ hours per week as a handyman and fine furniture mover to help make ends meet. "It is more difficult to succeed academically when you have to work a full-time job and study."

After leaving high school, Ortega began working for a fine furniture store as a mover. He quickly rose through the ranks and eventually became the warehouse manager, in charge of millions of dollars of merchandise. He was leading a six-man crew and was soon making logistical improvements in the warehouse operations to make it more efficient.

"I'm thankful for my time as manager and the invaluable skills I've learned from that powerful experience," he said. "Today, I use those skills while planning events and fundraisers with the honor society on campus. I am able to see potential problems in budgeting and logistics and prepare myself, and fellow members, to deal with such issues."

Interim President Jim Keller said Carlos is a student-leader committed to receiving a quality education. "He has had to overcome immense obstacles to an education which would have been far too daunting for most people in our society. He did this entirely on his own initiative, without family assistance or any of the usual support mechanisms of a functioning family."

Ortega said academically he was immediately drawn to economic theory, calculus, and the mathematical formality of economic analysis. "Examining global and local events and pressing issues unfolding around me, I realize that economic analysis is essential to prescribe solutions," he said. "I strive to dedicate my life to such a discipline that has the potential to positively affect societies on both the local and global level."

Ortega said he would like to eventually work for the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. "I believe the next step toward achieving my goal is to study in a culturally diverse setting and challenging educational environment like UC Berkeley. I want to study under cutting-edge professors with different outlooks."

Before attending Cal, Ortega said he'll participate in Cañada's Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 26. "Cañada has given me a great opportunity," he said. "I'm excited to go through the graduation ceremony at the school."


Popular posts from this blog

Join us for Artistry in Fashion on Saturday, Sept. 28

Have you ever dreamed about being a fashion designer? Do you enjoy the fun and creativity that goes into designing beautiful clothing? If you are a fashionista – or even if you’re not, come join us at Cañada College on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 am to 4 pm for the 22nd annual Artistry in Fashion event.

Since 1991, the Cañada College Fashion Department has hosted Artistry in Fashion, bringing together fashion lovers, students, faculty, and premier local designers and fabric artists for an exciting day of fashion and creativity, all for the benefit of student scholarships and materials. Don’t miss a dazzling fashion show by esteemed fashion educator and Director of the Center for Pattern Design, Sandra Ericson. Learn what it takes to become a fashion designer from Cañada's acclaimed fashion instructors. You'll also have the opportunity to buy clothing, jewelry, and other fashions on sale from more than 60 local designers.

Admission is only $10 and benefits the Canada College Fashio…

Alaa Aissi Awarded Prestigious Scholarship

2014 Cañada Graduate Alaa Aissi has been awarded the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship from UC Berkeley. The scholarship is the most prestigious and the highest honor awarded by the university to an undergraduate. It attracts, retains, and graduates the most sought-after students in the world. After the pool of over 90,000 Cal applicants is thoroughly reviewed, only the top 1 percent of incoming students are invited to be interviewed by Berkeley faculty. From there only two hundred students receive the scholarship. Benefits of the scholarship include a Faculty Mentor, research fellowship opportunity, further networking with faculty and fellow scholars throughout their academic careers, along with a monetary award. Upon receiving this honor, Alaa expressed, “I am humbled by the opportunity to have received this scholarship and to be a part of the Regents’ and Chancellor¹s Scholars Association. I am looking forward to being lauded at the Chancellor¹s residence at this fall’s recept…

Learning English Led to a New Life for Redwood City’s Patricia Segura

After moving from Mexico five years ago, Patricia Segura knew she would have to master English to stay in the United States, find a job, and fulfill her goal of studying to become a nurse. But without command of the language, going to college seemed impossible.

“When I decided to stay in this country, I wanted to keep studying as I was doing in my country,” she said. “Learning English became a new short-term goal in my life. I wanted to study English in college but I had to start from the beginning.”

She began taking community-based English courses offered by Cañada College at Sequoia High School. Later she moved to John Gill Elementary School to take a course because her nephew was in the class. When she finished her course at John Gill, Segura’s professor helped her sign up for the first level of English as a Second Language at Cañada College.

“When I started at Cañada, my goal was to learn English to find a job,” she said. “Now I'm pursuing my goal of becoming a nurse. The more I …