Juan Rangel can tell you precisely the moment his plans for college began to take shape. Appropriately enough, it was during an AP English class early in his senior year at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria. The teacher had invited a Scholarship Foundation program advisor to give a presentation that fateful day, and as Juan sat and took it all in, a startling thought occurred to him: He could continue his education at a university.
“Until that point, I had just assumed that college was not an option, that I would never have the money to pay for it, so I had not even entertained the possibility of going,” said Juan, now a freshman at CSU Sacramento. “The Scholarship Foundation completely changed the equation, and with it my thinking as to what I could accomplish.”
A native of Santa Maria, Juan was raised by a foster family of modest means. Prior to meeting the Scholarship Foundation representative, he had planned to enlist in the Air Force and ultimately become a firefighter. Once college entered the picture, there was never any doubt as to what he would end up studying.
“I’ve always enjoyed English classes in school,” said Juan, a declared English major with a teaching emphasis.
“But it’s more than that. Growing up in Santa Maria – and for a time in Guadalupe – I encountered many students who spoke little or no English, and came to see it as a language barrier that’s in effect a learning barrier. I realized that I had the potential to break down those barriers, provided I could earn a degree.”
Inspired by the same Pioneer Valley English teacher who arranged for that Scholarship Foundation class visit last autumn, Juan hopes to become a similar catalyst for increasing educational opportunities in his community.
“I’m a living example of what support from the Scholarship Foundation can do in terms of changing young people’s lives,” he said. “I want to be the one to impress upon doubtful students that yes, college is an option.”