By Arturo & Yuliana Aguirre
The Ventura College Promise was the first Promise program in California! It is a commitment to recent high school graduates that they will attend their first year at Ventura College free of tuition and fees. The Ventura College Promise has made a huge impact in people’s lives, particularly the Aguirre family. Check out star brother-sister duo Arturo and Yuliana and their inspiring story!
I was born and raised in the small town of Santa Paula in Ventura County, California. My parents are working class Mexican immigrants. Raising my two sisters and me wasn’t easy. Our parents have always encouraged us to pursue an education because they want a better life and opportunities for us.
During the college application process, I realized that I couldn’t afford to attend a four-year institution. That’s when I learned about the Ventura College Promise, which pays a full year of tuition and fees for qualified students to pursue their education. That definitely seemed like a more affordable and practical way to start college.
After two years at Ventura College, I transferred to UCLA, which accepts more transfer students than any other top-tier university in the country. My time at Ventura College strengthened my study skills and educational fundamentals, helping me succeed at the next level. I was also very fortunate to receive a Ventura Foundation scholarship which helped cover my costs at UCLA.
I felt so fortunate to receive these scholarships. During my time in college, I wanted to give back so others could have the same benefits. That’s why I applied for a fellowship at UCLA’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy (CAPPP). Through CAPPP, I was placed in the Washington, D.C. office of Scholarship America, where I supported policies to help underprivileged students access higher education.
Being the oldest, you’re pressured to set the example for your siblings. Either you’re really good, or you’re really bad. And I wanted to be a good example. That’s why I taught my sister Yuliana everything I knew about the Ventura College Promise and transferring to a four-year university. I’ve been so proud to watch her walk this path as well.
I know I wouldn’t have graduated from UCLA without the Ventura College Promise. I’m grateful that so many people across the country are supporting free community college to ensure students like me and my sisters can achieve their potential.
I followed the path my older brother, Arturo, took. I’m a Ventura College Promise recipient and am now in my senior year at UCLA. College was definitely expected of us. My mom always told us, “When you have an education, it’s something you have for yourself. And no one can take it away.” So from a very young age, I knew my top goal was going to college.
Having a goal is one thing, but accomplishing it is another when you’re a low-income family. I was very excited to learn about the Ventura College Promise when my brother was accepted there. Not having to worry about paying such a large amount of money during my first year of college was a big relief. I resolved to work my hardest, since I knew that many people had donated money to make the Promise possible.
Without the Ventura College Promise, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on my studies, because I would have been worrying about how to pay for books, parking fees, and most importantly the cost of each class. The Ventura College Promise definitely helped my transfer process, because my grades were a reflection of my not having to worry about the financial aspect.
Having a support system, whether that’s a sibling or a mentor, is so important to the process. Knowing that my brother went through the same process and was there to give me advice made a huge difference. And covering tuition, even just for one year, gave me motivation. If I can do one year, I can do another.