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Former Cañada Student Monique Ellis Teaches Others

Ellis is working as a teaching assistant at East Palo Alto Academy.

Monique Ellis (L) with EPAA teacher Misla Barco
Monique Ellis will never forget Cañada College professors Bob Lee and Michael Stanford. Lee, a professor of sociology, and Stanford, a professor of history, inspired Ellis to become a role-model for others in her East Palo Alto neighborhood.

Ellis graduated from Palo Alto High School in 2007 and initially attended the University of Pacific. After completing a semester, she withdrew because tuition costs were unaffordable for her family. She returned home, enrolled at Cañada in the spring of 2008, and completed her general education courses, where she met both Lee and Stanford.

“Attending Cañada was probably the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I really benefited from the small class sizes and professors who actually care about their students succeeding. Because of this support, I gained a wealth of academic confidence and skills.”

In the summer of 2010, Ellis transferred to UC Berkeley where she applied her newfound skills. “I was able to flourish at UC Berkeley, which is known for its rigorous curriculum. Also, because tuition at Cañada is affordable, I was able to save money to put towards the cost of tuition when I transferred.”

Ellis said Stanford and Lee took a sincere interest in her both as a person and a student, pushing her further academically than she was willing to push herself. “Before I ever thought of pursuing a graduate degree, they were both encouraging me to do so and I’m now planning to go to graduate school in two years. They gave me the skills, courage, and confidence to succeed in my educational pursuits. I remain close with them and they still mentor and give me guidance from time to time. I cannot emphasize enough just how grateful I am to have such wonderful mentors who believe in me.”

Now, Ellis has returned to East Palo Alto and she is mentoring students at East Palo Alto Academy, a Stanford University affiliated small public charter high school within the Sequoia Union High School District.

“I love that I get to work with students from my community and be a positive role model for them,” she said. “To show them that being a person of color from East Palo Alto is not something to be ashamed of and that you can succeed despite circumstances and environments that you feel may hold you back. This, coupled with students’ curiosity and excitement for learning, have encouraged me to consider a career in education.”

Ellis said the stigma associated with attending a community college is unfounded. “Going to a community college does not mean you’re less capable than students who go to four-year colleges and universities.”


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