Produced by Pat McConahay


California's San Joaquin Valley is home to some of the richest farmland in the world - and some of its poorest residents. A growing population of Mexican immigrants eke out a living harvesting the state's bounty. The seasonal has led to the highest poverty rate in the state, at 22%.

Educator Nancy Mellor knew that, despite a high dropout rate, there were a number of gifted students -- kids who, with a little extra push, could go onto college and create brighter future for themselves.

Each summer since 1987, Mellor has brought a group of students in grades 7 to 12 to the UC Berkeley campus for a six-week academic "boot camp." It's run through the Graduate School of Education's Academic Talent Development Program. Director Nina Hirsch Gabelko says this has opened up a whole new world for kids who otherwise wouldn't travel beyond their own hometown, much less consider college.

A number of college graduates may want to flee the Valley towns for the big city. But others, like program graduate Javier Gonzalez, bring their degree and their talents home. Gonzalez, a Harvard alumnus, is now the mayor of Huron.

But more importantly he's teaching and encouraging future college graduates, even hanging the banners of some of the biggest schools in the country in his classroom as an incentive for his students to strive for more.

Education is certainly one ticket to financial freedom for the Valley's growing immigrant population. Entrepreneurship is another.

Clarence Williams is the president of California Capital Financial Development Corporation in Sacramento. The non-profit provides state loan guarantees for small business owners who don't qualify for traditional financing.

California Capitol's approach to business is anything but business as usual. They offer classes in a multitude of languages. Before clients are given a loan, they get a healthy dose of financial education under the heading STRIVE - or Strategies to Reach Financial Independence Via Education. The free classes, often held in neighborhood churches, target people in the most needy communities who have little or no financial savvy.

After graduating from the nine-week course, would-be business owners have a better chance for success. Kymberly Jackson says the classes gave her the foundation to start her small beauty supply store in Sacramento's Pocket Area.

Jackson also received one of California Capital's micro-business loans, which range from $500 to $25,000. She's so grateful, she says she hopes to help young people achieve what she has.

And that's proof, says Clarence Williams, that helping minorities and immigrants be successful is good for the entire community.



Nancy Mellor

Nina Hirsch Gabelko
Director, Academic Talent Dev. Program

Clarence Williams
President, California Capital



The complete text of New Valley Episode 206: Divided We Stand...


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