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Faces Of MC Scholarships: A Young, Latino Immigrant And A Single Mom

The MC Foundation surpassed the $23 million mark for the MC2020 Campaign and is on track to close, and hopefully exceed, its goal of $30 million by June 30, 2020. Inspired by MC President DeRionne Pollard and the Board of Trustees’ strategic plan for the College, which centers on five themes of academic excellence, student access and affordability, economic development, community engagement, and institutional accountability, MC2020 is the reason students like Aristides Villatoro and Beverly Guerra can achieve a higher education.

Villatoro, a 21-year-old MC student majoring in criminal justice, emigrated from El Salvador with his mother when he was nine years old. As a Latino immigrant who didn’t speak English, he felt like he was “in another world.” High school was a struggle, and college seemed out of the question – until he applied and was accepted into the ACES (Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success) program.

Aristides Villatoro

ACES, a partnership among Montgomery County Public High Schools, MC, and the Universities at Shady Grove, creates a pathway for former high school students like Villatoro to learn the academic and life skills they need to matriculate into MC, complete their AA, and then go on to earn their BA—all with the help of ACES mentors who support these students throughout their entire academic journey. According to David Sears, senior vice president for advancement and community engagement at MC, more than $5 million of the $23 million raised by MC2020 has gone directly to ACES scholarships, and more than $2.5 million has funded ACES programming.

“The primary goal is to have…underrepresented populations be able to take advantage of what ACES has to offer,” Sears said. “When you look at the scholarships awarded in the [MC2020] campaign, more than two thirds go to diverse populations. What we’re doing with our scholarships is reflective of the groups that we’re trying to help and remains reflective of the College’s overall population, and our social justice mission.”

Villatoro, who does not qualify for any government aid, describes his scholarship as “a blessing from God” and “fulfilling a dream.”

My mom told me she could not give me much, but my education was going to be my heritage

“As minorities, we don’t have first-generation college students or professionals in our families…there’s a lack of education, a lack of support,” he said. “My mom told me she could not give me much, but my education was going to be my heritage.” Now, because of his scholarship and his participation in the ACES program, Villatoro is set to graduate this summer and pursue a BA in criminal justice through the University of Maryland.

Beverly Guerra is another student who never would have pursued a college education were it not for her MC scholarship. Guerra is a proud single mom who dedicated her life to raising her six sons. After watching one of her sons, Reginald Hyman, graduate from MC, Guerra decided it was her turn. She began her business studies at MC in 2017 – at the same time her other son, Matthew Mason, was beginning his criminal justice major there.

Beverly Guerra (center) with two of her sons

“I was very nervous because this was my first time going to college…all my classmates were much younger than I was,” Guerra recalled. Two years later, she is thriving in her courses and laughs about how she likes to compare grades with her son.

Would her education have been possible without her MC scholarship?  “Never,” Guerra laughs.

“I qualified for scholarships I didn’t even know I could get…how could I give up that opportunity?” said Guerra. “I think no matter what age you are, you should reach to try to do anything you can to educate yourself. There are too many opportunities and possibilities…why waste them?”

To donate to the MC2020 Campaign, please visit: https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/alumni-friends-donors/foundation/donate.html

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