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Education is the greatest gift

Marin Independent Journal – December 10, 2006

Education is the greatest gift

by Pepe Gonzales

The greatest gift I ever received was the gift of education.

I was born and raised in Point Reyes Station and graduated from Tomales High School. My parents are both from a small rural town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. They emigrated to the United States in the early 1970s and have lived in Point Reyes ever since.

My parents always encouraged me to do my best in school and to attend college. Neither had attended college, and while their encouragement meant a lot to me, they were not able to advise me on the college application process or how to pay for it. Although both of my parents cared deeply about me and supported me in my dreams, without the support made possible through generous donations to the Marin Education Fund, I would not have made it to college.

Marin Education Fund gave me the guidance, knowledge, financial support and hope I needed to get to college.

As a high school junior, I met with Sandy, a Marin Education Fund adviser who helped me see that college was not just a far off dream but a clearly attainable goal. She encouraged me to broaden the scope of my college search to think about not only community colleges, but also state and private colleges that I had considered beyond my reach. She guided me on how to write a college admissions essay and was my final editor before sending off my completed admissions packet. And she helped me see that financial resources were available if I demonstrated the potential and the desire to go to college.

My brother, sister and I are the first generation in my family to graduate from college. I graduated from Dominican University of California in 2002, and soon will complete a master’s degree in education from Sonoma State University. I am a vice principal at Venetia Valley School, a kindergarten to eighth-grade public school in Santa Venetia.

I know firsthand that by helping one person with the gift of education, you touch the lives of thousands more. My college success enabled me to become a teacher and vice principal in Marin. Now, I help other children in Marin become inspired and prepared to make college a reality and not just a dream. Just as the encouragement from that Marin Education Fund counselor and my parents served as an inspiration for me, my education now enables me to be the inspiration for a new generation of students full of promise and hope.

At Venetia Valley School, we share the Marin Education Fund’s belief that everyone should have a chance at college. Last year, we participated in a program run by Marin Education Fund that brought our third-grade students to the Dominican campus.

Each student was given a t-shirt that read “College Bound.” We toured the campus, visited classrooms and spoke with advisers who reinforced that college was a possibility for every student. The results are amazing. When a student says, “I’m going to go to college,” when he walks around campus and really sees what college will mean for him, what once was a dream becomes his future.

Many of the kids we teach have parents who may not always understand the value of education. Marin Education Fund’s College Bound program – and the guidance that helped get me to college – can provide that resource. It can give a student who has the intelligence, perseverance and dedication to get to college the help and money they need to get there.

Donors to Marin Education Fund make a powerful impact. By helping one student, you help the broader community. Graduates inspire others. We raise children who go on to become college educated. And, like so many of the 18,000 students in need in Marin who have attended college because of Marin Education Fund, we go on to become the teachers, doctors and business leaders who pay the gift forward to others in Marin.

The greatest gift you can give is the gift of education. It is a gift that was given to me through Marin Education Fund and a gift I have been honored to be able to continue to give as a teacher here. The generosity of those who donated to Marin Education Fund gave me the extra support I needed to build a better life for myself and at the same time give back to all those who supported me.

This holiday season, please join me in strengthening our county and helping others get to college by supporting Marin Education Fund and giving the gift of education.