Alejandra Rueda received $10K per year for first two years at UC Santa Cruz

Published in the August 2 – August 15, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Carly Gelsinger

Gavilan student Alejandra Rueda will attend the University of California, Santa Cruz with $10,000 for the first two years thanks to winning the Karl S. Pister Scholarship.
Photo by Carly Gelsinger

Gavilan student Alejandra Rueda came to Gilroy from Mexico at age 10, with “hello” and “thank you” the only two English words in her lexicon. Now she’s off to the University of California, Santa Cruz to become a doctor, with a competitive scholarship in hand.

Rueda, 22, won the Karl S. Pister Scholarship in May, an award open to students from 13 Bay Area community colleges who have overcome economic obstacles and shown a commitment to helping others. She will receive $10,000 per year for her first two years.

Rueda was at work when she got the call from Kathleen Rose, president of Gavilan Community College.

“As soon as she told me the news, tears were rolling down my cheek,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible.”

Rueda underwent a rigorous process of submitting essay questions and interviewing with administration at UC Santa Cruz. Faculty at Gavilan helped her prepare for her interview.

At Gavilan, Rueda oversaw a student tutor program and worked in the writing center. She is passionate about writing because she said it’s an essential life skill for any career.

“You can’t communicate? You can’t be successful,” she said.

Gavilan College Writing Center Director Karen Warren was one of the first to push Rueda to apply for the scholarship.

“Alejandra has left a legacy of student support that will continue long after she’s gone,” Warren said. “Her efforts have touched hundreds of students, helping them pursue their own dreams of achieving a college education.”

The road to become a college-bound woman required much hard work, but Rueda doesn’t take credit for herself. She hands it off to the people who have helped along the way.

“If you don’t have a support system behind you, you can’t get there,” she said. “Having people who push you, that believe in you, that’s the most important thing.”

Her teachers were her biggest influence — from her first year at Brownell Middle School shortly after immigrating to the U.S. to Gavilan and all the educators in between.

In the Dual Immersion Program at Brownell, Rueda was pushed to learn English by her sixth-grade teacher, Monica Prizzoli, who still teaches at Brownell today.

“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to communicate the way I do,” Rueda said.

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Rueda met Prizzoli by chance recently at the Nob Hill Foods store in Gilroy.

“I ran up to her and hugged her, and thanked her for her patience and for believing in me. I was so glad to do that.”

Rueda will study biology and hopes to finish medical school to be a surgeon. But for now, she will spend the summer tutoring other students who were once in her shoes at Gavilan, and packing for her new life in the dorms of the tree-studded campus in Santa Cruz.

“I’ve had people say ‘are you sure you can do that?’ And to that I say, ‘yes I can.’ And ‘yes, you can.’ Our only limitations are in our mind.”