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.
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.
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.
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.