Michele Castro heads north, adds another step in her educational journeyby Jan Janes on Aug 3, 2018
"I never thought to go to junior college, as it was called back then"
It surprises people when she tells them.
Michele Castro dropped out of high school eight weeks before graduation. Her parents had purchased a home 100 miles to the north during her senior year. She moved out at age 18, supporting herself.
Thinking more clearly, she did return to high school to make up the incomplete classes, and she did receive her diploma. Squeaked by with a 1.83 GPA.
After high school, Castro worked for 25 solid years. There was no money or time to attend school.
In 2016, at age 49, she enrolled at Gavilan with determination. Two years later she graduated with a double AA in Communication Studies and in Spanish. Paired with a sparkling 3.85 GPA. She was also accepted as a transfer student into San José State University, UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley.
"Leaders show up"
At the beginning of the term, the student who agreed to serve as CommClub president resigned. I spoke to the other club members and expressed the seriousness of the situation. If someone didn't step into this role, the club would go inactive.
Michele graciously offered to be interim president of CommClub, with no training and a busy schedule. I have advised the CommClub for four years and have never seen a more effective, giving and selfless leader.
She truly led by example. Under her direction, the club successfully hosted three workshops for students, as well as two major fundraisers. It was an honor to watch her dedication to student success.
Kelly Glass, Professor of Communications Studies
Kelly Glass, Communications Studies professor, with Michele Castro during the May 2018
Scholarship Awards Ceremony sponsored by the Gavilan College Educational Foundation.
"Never imagined in my life I would have these opportunities"
Castro toured all three university campuses, making two separate trips to UC Berkeley.
"I loved UCSC. It felt like home, relaxed," she said.
Geographically it was an easier transfer, the university offered a phenomenal package for her to attend. Everything about UCSC was perfect. Everything about UC Berkeley was challenging.
"Berkeley scared me more"
No back of the envelope estimates: UCB was going to cost more. And Castro perceived it would be difficult in other ways. Would she fit in? Would she be judged because of her age? At Berkeley she would be around elite students of the world. Could she keep up with them?
Staring down those fears, Castro chose Berkeley, hoping it will open more doors.
UCB move in day was August 2, and classes start August 27. She will major in ethnic studies and minor in either social welfare or international human rights. Completing her courses will take 2-1/2 years, and she just registered for classes.
"Choosing UCB over UCSC, I will expand my horizons and face my fears"
Scholarships will make it possible. Castro is the recipient of multiple scholarships, including
- Gilroy Rotary scholarship (Re-Entry)- Susan J. Seledon
- AAUW Morgan Hill transfer scholarship
- ASGC Leadership transfer
- Gavilan College student recognition for academic achievement
- Jim McEntee Friends of Humanity
During graduation in May 2018, (l-r) Dr. Blanca Arteaga, Rho Alpha Mu honor society
advisor and Dr. Kathleen Rose, Superintendent/President of Gavilan College,
congratulate Michele Castro after she receives the ASGC Leadership scholarship.
"It's time to get involved in the community, locally and globally"
While at UCB, Castro plans to explore an East Bay church working with DACA, Dreamers and asylum seekers.
She expressed an interest in study abroad programs so she could learn more about asylum seekers.
"I would like to study abroad in Greece," she said. "See, firsthand, asylum seekers landing in Greece, see what's going on. I would also like to study abroad in Italy and Spain."
"A vision of returning to Gavilan to empower individuals and stand up to injustice"
Castro sees herself returning to Gavilan and working in EOPS, ESL and student life, especially with Dreamers and DACA students.
"I'm concerned that we don't show support of these students in more ways," she said. Many students who are Dreamers/DACA won't categorize themselves as such. Castro wants support of Dreamers and DACA to be promoted more at the high school and community college level, with banners, posters, visibility, supporting these students. She also wants to see internships for Dreamers, on-campus DACA support and a list of support volunteer services.
"At my age, this is my chance, my ticket to get on the rocket ship into the great unknown"
"If it were not for the encouragement of Ryan Shook, Mari Garcia (EOPS), Blanca Arteaga, and my connections with the faculty in Financial Aid I would have not been as successful," Castro said. "The connections I have made have been life changing. I have truly enjoyed my educational journey and I’m excited to continue."