Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Gustavo Gonzalez Herrera: Following a Dream to Serve Others

Gustavo Gonzalez Herrera
Gustavo Gonzalez Herrera has wanted to become a doctor since he witnessed the lack of medical care afforded to the poor while growing up in a Tijuana family barely able to feed itself. Thanks to Grossmont College, he may reach his dream. 

“I want to make a difference,” said Gonzalez, 24, a biology major who is carrying a 4.0 GPA and plans to transfer to UC San Diego. 

He’s making a difference at Grossmont College, where his dedication and academic success led the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges to recently award him with a $500 Barnes & Noble Scholarship to pay for textbooks.

For a student enveloped by poverty as a child, the scholarship will have a profound impact. Gonzalez grew up dirt poor in Tijuana, one of three boys being raised by a single mom. The family for one year lived in a church, with his mother taking care of more than a dozen orphans in exchange for having a place to raise her children. 

“My mom had enough money to feed us, but not much beyond that,” Gonzalez said.

Still, Gonzalez and his brothers often resorted to sorting through Dumpsters for leftovers from a grocery distribution center, carefully sorting edible fruits and vegetables from spoiled produce.

Despite the challenges, Gonzalez never wavered from his studies nor did his commitment to become a medical professional.

“Coming from a humble upbringing, I have seen and experienced first-hand how the lack of quality and affordable care is impacting the poor,” Gonzalez said. “The medical need in Mexico is so severe. It is so sad to see what is happening to people. To see how people can’t afford to see a good doctor. How women are giving birth in the hospital hallways because there is nowhere else to put to go.”

Shortly after graduating from high school, he enrolled at Autonomous University of Baja California, studying medicine at the Tijuana campus. His journey took a turn, however, after he met the woman who would become his wife. A legal secretary living in across the border, his future wife – who he met at a Tijuana church – convinced Gonzalez the educational opportunities were better in San Diego County. 

However, when the couple made the move to Chula Vista three years ago, Gonzalez’s credits from medical school didn’t move with him. Therefore, he had to start from the beginning, and he had to wait a year before he could enroll at Grossmont College to be eligible for the $46 per credit unit fees that California residents pay.

His wife urged Gonzalez to enroll at Grossmont College. “She did a lot of research,” he said. “She saw that they had an awesome nursing and science program at Grossmont College. She showed me this was the path I should follow.”

When he visited the El Cajon campus, he was sold. “The people here were awesome. They explained how everything worked. They told me what I had to do to get to UCSD.”

It hasn’t been easy. Gonzalez is working full time while he and his wife raise their now 2-year-old son. Money is still tight. “I still want to pursue medical school, but I’m realistic about my situation,” he said. “Either way, if I can’t afford medical school, maybe I’ll pursue becoming a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner. We’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Gonzalez couldn’t be happier than being a student at Grossmont College.

“Even though there are other colleges that are closer to me in Chula Vista, this is what is best for me,” he said. “The professors are here to help you right away. You have tutors who are here for you. There are counselors if you need them. The transfer center makes sure you are on track.”

“I’m not leaving Grossmont until I transfer to UCSD.”