Cuyamaca College student Juan Barraza hasn’t let a troubled childhood keep him from excelling in school and mapping out a career in engineering.
The 21-year-old El Cajon resident grew up in a single-parent household, was booted from his high school and found himself hanging around some friends who weren’t too interested in an education. But when he came to Cuyamaca College, he found success. Now he’s planning to transfer to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and study electrical engineering.
“I got a lot of support from the counseling office at Cuyamaca College,” Barraza said. “The counselors here are available whenever you need them. If I have questions about anything, the counselors, the teachers, anyone, is available anytime. If I need help, they are there for me.”
Barraza, an Osher scholarship recipient, is sporting a 3.7 GPA and working as a teaching assistant in the independent study program with the San Diego County Office of Education.
He is the first in his family to go to college. He has come a long way since his childhood in El Cajon.
Barraza said he grew up with his grandmother until he was 5, then was raised by his mother, who worked as a house cleaner and later at Sears. The family often had to turn to public assistance to get by. “We were not wealthy growing up,” Barraza said.
A turning point in Barraza’s life came when he was forced to leave El Cajon Valley High School. “I got into some trouble,” Barraza said. “I was hanging around the wrong crowd and I got kicked out of school.” He completed his high school studies through the county Office of Education. “They were very supportive,” Barraza said. “It really turned me around.”
Barraza excelled in math, and counselors encouraged him to pursue his studies at Cuyamaca College. He has since taken a strong interest in electrical engineering. He plans to earn his Associate of Arts degree next year.
“I’m getting a great education at Cuyamaca. What is really amazing is that the professors in the math department are always available,” Barraza said.
What does the future hold?
“I’m just taking it step by step,” Barraza said. “My next step is going to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.”