Published: Sun, May 07, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Two organizations send first-generation students to UCSC

Two organizations send first-generation students to UCSC

UC Santa Cruz students Josue Abriz and Ramiro Flores, beneficiaries of The Gumball Foundation, chat with its CEO Ezequiel Olvera and Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of social sciences. (Dan Coyro - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ & gt; & gt; Chatting over lunchtime pasta and lemonade, 25 students at UC Santa Cruz had a chance to connect Monday, with each other and the alumni whose organizations are helping them, financially and socially, make their college dreams a reality.

Hailing from the Los Angeles area, all students share a minority background - more than 90 percent are Latino - and have blazed a path as the first in their families to attend college. > "My three older brothers all worked instead of going to school," said Ramiro Flores, 23, a senior majoring in cultural anthropology. His father was a "traditionalist," who did not believe in the value of education, he said.

But now, with the help of The Gumball Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit that teaches students business acumen and the strength of interpersonal relationships, Flores has seen himself transform.

"I'm the youngest, but in a way I'm the oldest," said Flowers of his five siblings.

Ezequiel Olvera, a 2007 UC Santa Cruz alumnus and founder and CEO of the foundation, helps middle school students to learn how to become a financially independent Business skills by having them run their own venture: a gumball machine. In high school, they graduate to soda and snack vending machines that generate revenue for college, often earning a couple thousand dollars, said Flores.

The foundation has sent 70 students to college.

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"It's been so fulfilling," Olvera said.

"She'll text me, like 'How did your final go?'" Torres said. With the Dean of Social Sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki, the project president and CEO Ford Roosevelt, a 1979 UC Santa Cruz graduate, started organizing This year's student luncheon four years ago.

"I thought it would be neat if they could meet each other, and find out who they are," Ford said. They are supported by different programs, but "they are the same demographic," he said.

For Kamieniecki, the luncheon is a passion project and hopes to reach out to each other and the Gumball and GRAD organizations for support.

"They should feel if they have a problem, they have people to talk to," Kamieniecki said.

The efforts are working. Jesse Aleman, a senior majoring in theater arts, and Erik Perez, a freshman, had never met before the lunch. But they learned they both went to the same San Fernando High School, are interested in Japanese animation, and started college aspiring computer game designers.

Those commonalities prompted Perez, 18, to ask German, 21, "Can I get your number? We can get in touch. "

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