After graduating from San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) in May of 2013 with one of the new Associate Degrees for Transfer (AS-T) in Mathematics that ensures a seamless transition to the California State University (CSU) system, Mirella Campos will continue her education at CSU San Bernardino in the fall of 2013.

Mirella first arrived in the United States when she was three years old after her parents brought her to southern California from Mexico. Growing up in the Inland Empire, Mirella’s citizenship status did not prevent her from succeeding in the classroom.

Throughout high school, Mirella’s goal was to attend a CSU or UC campus. Although she was an honors student, even the application fees for those universities proved too burdensome—not to mention the prospect of trying to afford the tuition of four-year universities without access to critical federal financial aid.

“I felt stuck because I knew what I wanted, but couldn’t get there based on my situation,” Mirella shared.

During her final semester at Colton High School, Mirella heard about a program at SBVC called the Valley-Bound Commitment. The program promised a free first year of college (enrollment fees, books, parking, bus passes, etc.) for students graduating from her high school. Mirella instantly pursued the opportunity and was soon accepted into the award-winning program along with 150 other students from local feeder high schools.

Because her first year of college was completely funded by the Valley-Bound Commitment, Mirella committed to save the smattering of high school scholarships and savings she earned from working part-time over the summer.

“When it came time to pay for my second and third years at SBVC, I was able to go to my savings account to help pay for everything,” Mirella said. “I got involved with the EOP&S Program, borrowed some textbooks and rented others.”

Sometime during the summer between her first and second year when she was working a grueling summer job, Mirella realized she had to follow through on her commitment to pursuing her degree.

“I learned to appreciate my education because the kind of work I was doing wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Mirella admitted.

Mirella had another reason for maintaining her commitment to her education. As the oldest of four siblings, she recognized the importance of setting an example for her brothers and sisters about the importance of education. Now, as the first in her family to graduate from college, her field of study will allow her to assist others reach their educational dreams.

Despite testing into a remedial math class to start her college career, she rapidly progressed through SBVC’s math curriculum—even completing a multi-variable calculus class before earning the new transfer degree with a 3.8 grade-point average. Mirella’s goal is to become a math teacher at the middle school or high school level.

“I want to be a teacher who can change the ideal that math is hard by teaching it in a way that is interesting and not tedious,” Mirella said. “I originally intended to major in liberal studies, but was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough jobs and had always dreamed what it would be like to learn calculus and understand what was in those big math books.”

Now that she has attained a work permit, her plan is to work full-time over the summer in order to pay for her tuition at CSUSB.

Mirella’s final advice to other students is to never give up on their dreams.

“Once I become a teacher, I will motivate my students to attend college. I’ll tell them to try their best. And, one day, with perseverance and determination, they will succeed.”