Debbie Oliveira moved from Brazil to pursue her dream of launching a career in engineering. Thanks to Grossmont College, the honors student is steadily moving in that direction.
“I love it here,” said Oliveira, who is on track to earn an associate degree that will prepare her for a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from San Diego State University. “It’s a beautiful campus and it has a lot to offer. The support services are really good, too. I feel like I get all the information I need whenever I ask for it.”
Oliveira has found her journey to Grossmont College rewarding in more ways than one. The president of the campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, she was recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.
Those her know her say Oliveira is deserving of the recognition.
“Throughout the year I’ve known Debbie as her English teacher and honors club advisor, she’s impressed me with her intense focus and commitment,” said instructor Catherine Sayre. “She constantly remains in control and committed to each of her many classes, clubs, and friends.”
Born in coastal city of Cabo Frio and raised in the city of Sao Jose Dos Campos, Oliveira was a standout student in math and chemistry in high school, earned a mechanical technician certificate at a trade school and worked for two years at an engineering and manufacturing firm. But she wanted more.
“I just didn’t feel like Brazil was right for me. Most people think that growing up in Brazil is all about soccer, beaches and having fun under the sun. But what many people don’t know is how difficult educational opportunities can be. I had friends who moved to the United States and were studying here, and I thought it would be good for me to do the same.”
After saving some money, she flew north, settled in San Diego and enrolled in a language school to learn English. Working as a student ambassador to pay the bills, Oliveira soon became fluent in English and began looking at San Diego State University. But because she was an international student, the cost would be prohibitively expensive.
“They told me the best way to get to San Diego State was to go through Grossmont College,” said Oliveira, 25.
Good thing; Grossmont has become a second home. Besides presiding over the Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Oliveira serves as secretary of the Science Club and involves herself in International Club activities when she can find the time.
Science Club advisor Jeff Lehman called Oliveira “the glue that holds the operation together.”
“She makes sure we follow up on all the activities we have planned,” he said. “She is very organized.”
Lehman also praised Oliveira for excelling while learning new language.
“Going into higher education in a new language is not an easy thing to do,” Lehman said. “She is a pretty determined person. I have all the confidence she will succeed in her endeavors and hope she sticks around when she’s done, because we need more people like her.”
Oliveira, who hopes to enroll at San Diego State in the fall of 2019, has no doubt she will succeed.
“Although these courses are challenging, engineering truly is my passion and it will allow me to have a secure profession so that I may able to give back to my parents for all the sacrifices that they have made.”