Rene Farfan, 22, is preparing to embark on a career as an aerospace engineer.
Yadira Diaz, 22, is attending California State University-Fresno and plans to obtain her teaching credential by 2015 to become a Spanish teacher.
Although each of these young people embarked on different courses of study and are planning diverse careers, they all have one thing in common: Their future got a big boost from the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission and its California Strawberry Scholarship Program.
Farfan plans to graduate with an aerospace engineering degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in June.
“I really like airplanes and helicopters,” he said.
His goal is to join a defense company and work on aircraft.
Farfan would have found a way to go to college even without the strawberry scholarship, he said, “but it definitely helps to know that I have that financial support.”
Thanks to the scholarship, “I never felt that I had to work,” he said. “I was able to concentrate first on academics.”
He did, however, accept some tutoring work that he felt would benefit him in the long run.
Farfan’s brother, Heriberto, also received a strawberry scholarship and now works at the Oxnard, Calif., Social Security office.
Gomez, 32, graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2004, where he studied biochemistry and Chicano studies.
He went on to graduate from Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, in 2010 and, after completing his internal medicine residency at Brooklyn Hospital, will start his pulmonary medicine residency in July.
“I tried to do the most with what I was given,” he said. “The California Strawberry Commission helped me out significantly in reaching all my goals.”
Gomez’ interest in medicine started at a young age, when his father was admitted to a hospital while suffering from diabetes.
“Since that day, I was very curious about what had caused my father to become so sick,” he said.
He eventually would like to pursue a career in pulmonary and critical care medicine.
“My family, along with the scholarship commission, has played a big role in achieving my goals,” he said.
He received scholarship support from 1999 to 2010.
Diaz, 22, attends California State University, Fresno, and plans to teach high school Spanish after graduating in 2014 or 2015.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said.
Strawberry scholarships run in the Diaz family.
Yadira’s twin sister, Yaneth, also is attending Fresno State and hopes to become a social worker.
Her sister Ageueda, 24, received a scholarship and graduated from the university last year and hopes to become a social worker.
Another sister, 20, Rosa Deysi, is studying accounting at a community college with help from her scholarship.
Her sister, Erika, a sophomore in high school, also hopes to receive a scholarship.
The 19-year-old California Strawberry Scholarship Program has awarded more than $1.5 million to 1,384 children of California strawberry farm workers. For the 2012-13 school year, $188,300 was awarded to 193 students
Over the years, the program has contributed to the successful completion of educational degrees, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs, according to the commission.
The scholarship program was established by California strawberry growers, shippers, processors and affiliated companies to extend funding for continuing students as a way to demonstrate grower’s appreciation of the contributions that farm workers make.
To qualify, scholarship applicants must have at least one parent who has been employed as a strawberry farm worker for the past two consecutive seasons. Awards are based on individual merit.
For more information, visit californiastrawberries.com.