Oscar Velasco knows a little something about being an underdog. The son of agricultural workers from Mexico, he recently became the first in his family to earn a college degree, with assistance from the Scholarship Foundation.
Now he wants to help others facing the same cultural barriers to academic success he encountered as a teenager.
“School can be uniquely challenging for Hispanic students, especially when there is no family tradition of educational attainment, which is often the reality for children of recent immigrants,” said the Santa Maria native. “In my case, it was sometimes hard to see a way forward to college. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own.”
He credits his teachers at Santa Maria High School with providing the guidance and support he needed to continue his education, first at Cuesta College and later at Allan Hancock College and Cal Poly. Having just earned a degree in history at the latter, Oscar now plans to earn a teaching credential and become a mentor himself.
“I want to teach high school, preferably one serving a marginalized community,” he said. “Young people in these communities frequently view college as something out of reach. I want to be the one who provides encouragement and serves as an advocate for these students.”
He is keenly aware of the Scholarship Foundation’s role in his ongoing educational journey. Oscar received Foundation support each of his last three years of college, and sought financial aid application assistance from an SFSB program advisor.
“I certainly couldn’t have done this on my own,” he said. “I am very grateful to the Scholarship Foundation for helping me get to this point in my life.”