Mirella Campos is a role model for her three younger siblings. The recent San Bernardino Valley College graduate is the first in her family to earn a diploma and she has shown the rest of her extended family, as well, that getting a college education is possible – even if you are undocumented, as is Campos.
Now, Campos, 20, is headed off to California State University, San Bernardino with a newly minted Associate of Science for Transfer (AS-T) degree in mathematics. The Associate Degree for Transfer program is a collaboration between the California Community Colleges and the California State University system where community college students who complete a degree pathway are given guaranteed admission as a junior to a CSU that offers a bachelor’s degree in the same subject area.
“It has been very hard for me to get an education because up until my last year at (San Bernardino) Valley (College) I couldn’t get any financial aid because I was undocumented and I didn’t have a Social Security number,” Campos said.
Campos said she came to the United States when she was three. Neither of her parents are high school graduates. She said she has no memories of Mexico and intends to stay in Southern California after graduating and become a math teacher. Her education plan when she first entered San Bernardino Valley College was to be a liberal arts major and hopefully transfer to a CSU to become a teacher. A visit to an on-campus club and later an advisor at San Bernardino Valley College changed those plans slightly.
“I got involved with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program and then my advisor told me I had enough units to switch and be a math major,” Campos said. “When I petitioned for graduation I learned I had enough units to qualify for the AS-T in math.”
Campos said her friends and professors from the STEM program have encouraged her to become an engineer as Latinas are highly sought after by companies throughout the world.
“But I’m not very good at physics or chemistry,” Campos said. “I just want to teach. I want to be a teacher who can change the idea that math is hard by teaching it in an interesting way that isn’t tedious.”
CSU, San Bernardino was the only choice, she said, as money remains tight and the campus is only 20 minutes from her home in Rialto.
The California DREAM Act will help her pay for college. She said she’s already been notified that she will receive a Cal Grant.
With her tuition and books paid for, the young woman carrying a 3.8 grade point average can concentrate on getting the great grades she hopes her future math students will obtain, too, once she becomes a teacher.
“A lot of people told me that getting an education was impossible because I’m undocumented,” Campos said. “It’s been hard. But I knew there was a way. I’m proof of that. I believe that all youth should get some type of education, whether a certificate or a degree, because in this economy a high school diploma isn't going to cut it. I believe my story can inspire people to get an education.”