When MiraCosta College student Charles Trevino walked back into El Camino High School to speak with a group of juniors, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride.
A few years prior, Charles had just graduated from El Camino High School. Right after receiving his diploma, one of his teachers approached him and questioned whether this was the highest Charles would ever go in his education.
“Back then, college was never really in my plans,” recalled Charles. “In high school, we had counselors who helped us plan for college but to be honest I never really took them too seriously.”
For Charles, he simply had other priorities, none of which revolved around spending more time in a classroom. That is, until those high school counselors came calling again.
One day after graduating high school, Charles was eating at a local restaurant when one of the same counselors from the previous year walked in. He approached Charles and asked how college was treating him. Unfortunately, Charles had to break it to him that he never followed through. Nevertheless, the counselor gave Charles his card and told him to follow up.
Weeks later, when Charles was visiting one of his friends at MiraCosta College, he ran into another counselor who he met during high school. Similar to his encounter with the first, the counselor asked how Charles was faring in college, and Charles had to share that he wasn’t enrolled anywhere.
This time though, Charles walked away with more than a business card. After more than an hour together, Charles walked away from that interaction with his first college class schedule.
Shared Charles, “It was the last thing I expected at the time. It just kind of happened.”
During the fall of 2018, Charles became the first in his family to attend college when he started taking classes at MiraCosta College.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though. Charles noted that he struggled mightily during his first semester, failing three out of his four classes. When asked what helped him turn things around, he talks about his motivation to succeed and the support provided by professors on campus.
“In high school, very few teachers showed real concern for me and my future,” shared Charles. “I expected more of the same when I came to MiraCosta College. Instead, the professors here changed my life.”
Charles talks about his English professor Violeta Sanchez, who opened his eyes to literature that allowed him to learn about feminism and the importance of understanding all perspectives. Charles also credits professor Denise Nealon for taking the time to get to know him personally and helping him reflect on his personal traumas. Through her support, he was able to better understand how his experiences have impacted his views and actions, which Charles points to as the tipping point that solidified his passion for sociology.
“MiraCosta College was one of the first places where I felt like I was finally being seen and respected as a person,” said Charles. “I could really tell that each professor cared about me and wanted me to succeed.”
Today, Charles spends as much time as he can reading and writing, and has big plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in sociology from a four-year university. He also works hard to pay it forward, which is what brought Charles back to El Camino High School. Whenever he can, he tries to share his story of resilience to inspire others, and as a GEAR UP tutor, Charles had the opportunity to go back and talk to students who are facing many of the obstacles he once did.
“Guys like me don’t normally make it,” explained Charles. “So many of my family and friends took different paths and lost their way because of it. I feel like I’m doing all of this for them.”