Meet One of Our Members
The adventures of a young man from East Oakland with dreams of pursuing science at UC Berkeley started in the Fall of 2010, which at the time did not know all the hard work, struggles, and mentorship that was required to make it to the end. During the summer before college, I reflected a bit on my accomplishments in high school, and it finally hit me that I was going to break the chain and “free myself” up by pursuing higher education. I felt the urge and responsibility to become a role model to my younger cousins and the members of my community. The sense of responsibility and the pressure behind it made me want to work very hard in college.
Once I started my first semester of college, it was a very different experience than what I had initially envisioned. Even though I had taken a lot of AP classes back in high school to prepare me, college was a very different game both academically and socially, thus I had to learn fast how to play the game if not I was going to fall behind. Due to my lack of confidence (not believing in myself or my abilities) coupled with my fear of asking for help created a formula for academic destruction during my first year in college. After getting a few bad grades in my science classes, it reinforced the idea that maybe I did not belong at Berkeley and should thus not pursue a future career in medicine. Besides my academic struggles, I did not like the competitive nature of Berkeley, the high amount of stress that surrounded you every day, and the feeling of being a lonely “fish” surrounded by sharks!
Even though I was surrounded by a lot of negativity, I decided to not give up on my dream of one day becoming a doctor because my parents did NOT teach me to give up so easily without a fight, but instead to fight until the end. My parents did not go through the struggle of immigrating to the United States from Mexico when I was four, just so that I can give up on them, my community, and myself. I realized that what I was missing in my college experience was a sense of community and support, which is why I decided to apply to the Biology Scholars Program (BSP) during my sophomore year. BSP is made up of a community of hard working and very motivated students that come from low-income backgrounds, are first generation college students, or are underrepresented in the sciences, but have a great passion for science.
Although it may sound a bit cliché, BSP definitely changed my life both academically and socially in several ways. First, BSP provided me with the framework to build my own close-knit community of friends and supporters. Friends that went through the same science classes together and where there to help me, but also there for me to provide help. With the support of my peers, I even made it to the Dean’s List a couple of times!! Second, BSP opened the doors to internships that would later play a significant role in reinforcing my dream of wanting to become a physician. Through the help of BSP, I was able to participate in the Mentoring in Medicine and Science (MIMS) Clinical summer program at Highland Hospital where I got the opportunity to shadow doctors, mentor high school students, attend workshops, and above all, connect me to future mentors. Third, BSP believed in my strengths and helped me work on my weaknesses by giving me the space and support to face my fears. Last but not least, BSP taught me the importance of mentorship, collaboration, support, community, and above all, to believe in ourselves and never give up.
Since I had benefited a lot from the support of BSP, I decided to give back to my community by becoming a Peer Advisor during the 2014-2015 academic year. As a Peer Advisor, I had the honor of meeting a lot of amazing students with a huge drive and passion of pursuing careers in science. I helped the students with their class schedules, shared summer opportunities, referred them to other resources on campus, and was also there just to listen to them. I learned a lot of valuable skills as a Peer Advisor which will help me along my path towards medical school. After completing a year as an advisor, I hope that I had a positive impact on the life of a fellow human being, which would be my greatest reward and satisfaction. I am proud to say that I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Integrative Biology in 2015, and that my dreams of becoming a physician have only grown stronger due to the support of BSP. My accomplishments are due to the collective work of mentors, friends, and my community. Please, never stop believing in yourselves and always give back to your community.
“The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”-Confucius
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