Aurelio Manzanarez: Phoenix Scholarship

The turning point in my life was when I saw my daughter for the first time

Aurelio Manzanarez was born in Santa Barbara, which is “a nice place if you have money,” he says. But his mother was only 15 when she had him, and money was in short supply.

When he was nine years old, his parents divorced and he was sent to live with an aunt who also had financial difficulties and was, as he puts it, “too occupied with drugs to raise a child.” He turned to
the streets and, he admits, made poor choices because he lacked the guidance of an adult, and the comfort and safety of a stable home environment.

On the streets, he became involved in the criminal life, which he says he, “caught on to real quick.” As a result, he spent most of his childhood incarcerated. Then, at age 16, he became a father. The event
was pivotal.

“The turning point in my life was when I saw my daughter for the first time,” he says. Although he admits he didn’t know how to raise himself, let alone a child, he moved to Ventura County with nothing more than the clothes on his back, just so he could be with his little girl.

Once settled, he enrolled in Oxnard Adult School to earn his high school diploma and a medical assisting certificate. His proudest moment was having his daughter at his graduation ceremony to watch her dad reach his goal.

Aurelio Manzanarez

Emboldened and empowered, Aurelio sought a position as a medical assistant and was hired by Dr. Armin Alavi, a specialized ENT (ear, nose and throat) physician, whom Aurelio says inspired him to become a physician.

Awarded a scholarship through the Ventura College Foundation Phoenix Scholarship Program, Aurelio has been able to take the next steps toward his goal. He is now a full-time student at Ventura College, working toward his ultimate objective of becoming a doctor specializing in helping the needy.

Aurelio credits Dr. Alavi and others who have helped him through difficult times, including Professors Jaclyn Walker and Janine Bundy. He is also very grateful to the donors who make the scholarships available through the Ventura College Foundation, possible.

Even with the help of others, he says, the ultimate responsibility rests with the individual.

“Strive to succeed as badly as you want to breathe,” he says. “It takes persistence, it takes determination, it takes facing your fears which is hard and necessary instead of what is quick and easy.”

For Aurelio, it’s all about having the resolve to make the changes he knew he needed to make.

“It’s about having heart, not where you come from,” he says. “People resist change because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.”

Aurelio has a laser focus on what he has to gain, along with the determination that enables him to move forward regardless of what’s in front of him. But he also acknowledges that he can’t do it alone.

“No matter how difficult life seems, you can always accomplish your dreams,” he says. “Sometimes we just need a little help from others to help us achieve those dreams.”