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Andrea Ramirez Receives $10,000 Pister Scholarship to UC Santa Cruz

Ramirez arrived at Cañada College unable to speak English and looking for a supportive environment to raise her young daughter and found a place where she could excel academically.

Ramirez reviews the award letter with President Buckley.
Andrea Ramirez, a member of the Cañada College Student Senate and the school’s honor society, has been named a recipient of the Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Scholarship at UC Santa Cruz. The Pister scholarship was established to help the most promising students from regional community colleges transfer to UCSC. All recipients receive a $10,000 scholarship for each of two years, as well as the support of a strong academic mentoring program and assistance finding paid summer work experience in a field that complements their studies. Former UCSC Chancellor Karl S. Pister designed the program.

It’s been a long road to academic success for Ramirez, who arrived at Cañada College from Acapulco, Mexico with no ability to speak English but determined to make a better future for her baby daughter.

When Ramirez came to the United States, she quickly learned she would need to speak English in order to get a job. “I realized the only way to become independent, successful and set a good example for my daughter was to learn English,” she said.

In 2003, she enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Cañada. “The college became a new home for me and my ESL classes opened up a new world of educational opportunities,” she said. “ESL classes helped me develop my skills in writing, communication, reading comprehension, and vocabulary which were important for me to understand if I was going to take other classes at Cañada.”

As she gained proficiency in English, Ramirez gained her voice in the college community. She became involved in school activities and clubs, including the school’s honor society and student government. She also began working for CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) and the local YWCA to help victims of domestic violence, translating and advocating for Latinas with limited English proficiency.

“My bilingual skills have made me an especially effective ally for such women and their families,” she said. “I want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies and then go on to law school. I want to become a family law attorney.”

Alison Field, a history professor at Cañada, said Ramirez has served as a role model for other students and the community. “Not only is she an active member of the classroom and campus community, but she is also a supportive mom to her daughter and a volunteer for two non-profit organizations that serve the larger community,” Field wrote in a letter of support for Ramirez to the Pister Scholarship Committee.

Victoria Worch, student activities coordinator at the college, has worked closely with Ramirez in student government. Worch said Ramirez has come a long way from arriving in this country as a young mother without the ability to speak English. 

“If there is one thing I have noticed about Andrea,” Worch said, “it is how she can handle a lot on her plate. Few of us have the strengths to achieve greatness and she has the strength to do that.”

Ramirez said the support she received in the Cañada College Learning Center from tutors such as Susan Traynor and Julie Wilson was essential to her academic success. She also credits ESL professors Alicia Aguirre and John Saenz for helping her learn English and Soraya Sohrabi for convincing her to apply for the Pister Scholarship.

“Soraya spent many hours explaining the UC application process to me and answering all of my questions,” Ramirez said. “She always encouraged me to try and to never give up. She was there to give me a lift up when I was down, especially when I doubted whether I could finish school.”

Despite earning the prestigious Pister Scholarship, Ramirez is planning to attend UC Berkeley in the fall. In 2012, Carlos Ortega, a global economics major at Cañada, also earned the Pister Scholarship but turned it down to stay closer to home and attend UC Berkeley.

“Berkeley is closer to home and it was my first choice academically. It really is my dream school,” Ramirez said. “I’ll be able to commute to school which will make it easier for me and my daughter. It’s a dream come true.”


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