VAMOS Recipient Shares Struggles as First-Generation College Student

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MCALLEN – A former Rio Grande Valley student said two programs helped in his transition from high school to college.

Cesar Gonzalez said the Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships (VAMOS) helped him graduate from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with a degree in education.

Gonzalez is currently working at a law firm.

VAMOS executive director Daisy Hinojosa Martinez said they work to help students overcome the financial burden of attending college.

“A lot of the times these students are first-time college generation students and the parents struggle in not finding the means and ways to get their children to have that education,” she said.

Gonzalez said he considers himself one of those students. However, he was able to obtain a college degree thanks to the program.

“I think that those things shape who you are. It makes you look back and go, ‘Oh, look where I was at and look where I am at now.’ When something bad happens to me and my family, we were in worse situations,” he said. “When we were living in Mexico we had no light for six years. We were with candles at night and watched TV with a car battery… things like that.”

Gonzalez said he’s seen a dramatic change since then. After graduating, he said he aspires to attend law school.

“I told my mom, ‘Mom, I’m going to college. You don’t have to pay for anything.’ She was really excited, really nervous at the beginning,” he said.

Gonzalez said his mom, like many other Hispanic parents, wanted him to stay in the Valley.

“Most of the time, you know, our culture… You want your kids to be close,” he said.

The UTRGV graduate said GEAR UP and the VAMOS scholarship changed his life for the better. 

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