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Friday, May 20, 2016
Cuyamaca College graduate Rebekah Shtayfman: A lesson in overcoming adversity
More than 2,100 students will be receiving degrees and certificates at the Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College commencements on June 1 and 2. Here's the story of one amazing graduate.
refused to give up.
dropping out of high school, becoming a single mom at 18, and – at times –
sleeping in her carwhile looking
for a permanent home for her and her daughter, Shtayfman persevered, never
losing sight of her dream to pursue a higher education.
Now, as a result
of her determination and hard work, Shtayfmanis graduating with honors from Cuyamaca College. She has been accepted
to UC Berkeley, where she will be majoring in physics beginning this fall en
route toward her goal of earning a doctorate and becoming a college professor.
She credits Cuyamaca
College for playing a pivotal role in her journey.
“The faculty is
amazing,” said Shtayfman, who will be the student speaker at the Cuyamaca College
Commencement on June 1. “It’s a tight-knit student community, and the teachers
here genuinely care about your life and your future. The instructors here at
Cuyamaca have genuinely provided me with more than what I would expect from
school faculty. I had an incredible experience there that I wouldn’t trade for
Cuyamaca College’s Associate Dean of Dean of Student Affairs, is among Shtayfman’s
“Rebekah is an
amazing student,” Vaknin said. “She’s determined, resilient and dedicated to everything
she does. And she has an absolute passion for physics.”
interest in physics and her road to the University of California began early,
fueled by popular kids’ shows such as Bill
Nye the Science Guy and The Magic
School Bus – shows that motivated her to continuously ask, ‘Why?’
“Ever since I was
a little girl I’ve always been interested in how the universe works,” Shtayfman
said. “And I’m totally in love with mathematics.”
Her journey, though, took a detour when
Shtayfman dropped out of El Cajon Valley High School and moved in with her
boyfriend during her junior year. Shortly after her 18th birthday,
Shtayfman was pregnant. Not much longer after giving birth to her daughter,
Naomii, Shtayfman broke up with the child’s father and moved out.
A social worker suggested during a visit
that Shtayfman enroll at Cuyamaca College.
Soon, her dreams
of pursuing a higher education were becoming a reality.
became a star. Though she worked more than 30 hours a week to provide a stable home
for her daughter, the single mom maintained a 3.5 GPA during the three years at
The first-generation college student, who volunteers with the Girl Scouts of America and in her daughter’s
classroom, has since boosted her grade point average to nearly 3.8, joined
the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, served as a mathematics and physics tutor,
and earned a spot on the President’s List.
“She’s also passionate about encouraging
young women to pursue STEM fields,” Vaknin said.
This summer, she’ll be taking part in UC
San Diego’s Summer Training Academy for Research Success (also known as the
STARS Program), an eight-week summer academy for community college students,
undergraduate students, recent college graduates and postgraduate students.