July 07, 2021

25 Years of Impact: How a life-changing experience helped me achieve success

Being a first-generation college student comes with a lot of pride and a sense of accomplishment, but it also comes with a lot of challenges. My parents, who immigrated from Mexico as unaccompanied minors, paved the way for me to succeed but did not know how to support me academically. I did well throughout my early education and through high school, but I did not decide on a path or clearly know of the college path until my high school counselor nominated me for the Earl Woods Scholar Program.

I can honestly say that being an Earl Woods Scholar was life changing. It laid the foundation for my later achievements and allowed me to truly understand the value of mentorship. When my parents met the college access team from TGR Foundation I remember my dad telling me, “Haz lo que la senora Fernández te diga” (“do whatever Mrs. Fernández tells you”). He too valued the support and mentorship the foundation provided me and he knew their guidance would better allow me to achieve my goals.

With support from the foundation, my Earl Woods Scholar Program mentor, Mark McKeehan, and my fellow cohort of scholars, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology from Chapman University in 2014. While at Chapman, I was a tutor and mentor to K-12 students from underserved communities, in large part because of the benefits I was gaining from my own mentor-mentee relationship.

In 2019, I received my master’s degree in social work with an emphasis in child welfare from San Diego State University, following my passion to serve those from underprivileged communities and create environments in which everyone’s basic needs are met. For my graduate program I was selected to be a Title IV-E recipient, which provided me funding that helped me begin my career in child welfare.

Throughout my career I have encountered driven individuals that, like me, had endured hardships and overcome obstacles, which included being a minority, having a disability, language barriers, lack of financial resources and more. Some were things I experienced first-hand. Often, when I work with children who have encountered struggles, I tend to think back to my dad’s experience as a child. He endured abuse and had to work to support his family when he was just a school-aged boy.

I decided to pursue a career in child welfare largely because of the sense of pride and accomplishment helping others brings me. Personally, my work is also a way to pay it forward and help the most vulnerable succeed. Currently, I am a social worker with Monterey County Family and Children Services Department. This career comes with many challenges, but it is also rewarding and humbling to know that I am making a difference in the lives of children, teens and families. There are no words to describe how rewarding it is to have the privilege of working with families and supporting them through their hardships. I love this work.

A few years ago I received a letter in the mail from TGR Foundation. It was a letter I wrote to myself several years ago when I was still a student and scholar. I was asked by the foundation to write a letter about where I saw myself in five years. Because of the support I gained from the Earl Woods Scholar Program coupled with own my hard work, my career is exactly where I wanted it to be, in social work changing the lives of youth in need.


Building students success for 25 years.

This story is part of a series highlighting 25 years of impact through TGR Foundation programs. 


The Earl Woods Scholar Program was established in 2006 to support high-potential students with demonstrated need and a commitment to community service. The program is supported by TGR Live events and our generous community ofdonors,partners and volunteers. To join us in building accessible pathways to success for underserved youth visitTGRFoundation.org/PathwaysForward