Diego Salas: Student Success
BLAZING BOLD NEW TRAILS FOR HIS COMMUNITY
Diego grew up in Oxnard with his sister Paloma and older brother (and fellow Ventura College student) Andres. After he graduated from Rio Mesa High School, he began assisting his Mexican-born mother, Araceli Perea, with the operation of her daycare center. In need of financial assistance to continue pursuing his education and his dream career in higher education, he visited the Ventura College Foundation’s website and explored the available scholarship information.Diego Salas is as impressive a 20-year-old young man as you can meet. He helps his mother run her daycare business. He has earned four impactful scholarships from the Ventura College Foundation while attending Ventura College, where graduated on May 19, 2023. He has a crystal clear vision of where he’s headed next (CSU Channel Islands this fall)—and what the ideal future looks like for both him and his fellow Mexican-Americans.
“My dream is to teach college United States History, in particular Mexican-American history, in order to show that Americans of Mexican descent have a long and rich history here,” explains Diego. “To show that we are not just on the sidelines. We are here. We contribute. We make America the way it is today. And our contributions cannot be overlooked.
“I want to show young Mexican-Americans that the more you know your history and the past, the more you understand the conditions of the present. You can find the means to solve your challenges and meet your needs as you move into the future.”
“I saw a link to the Ventura College Foundation, so I went to see what it’s about,” recalls Diego. “I looked into it, and worked at it. The process was reasonable. It wasn’t asking for too much personal information. If you’re taking two courses in a semester and completed them, then you can do it.”
Diego eventually received both the Dr. Joyce Mason Evans (VCCC Retired) Annual Scholarship and the Hemming Family Scholarship from Ventura College Foundation in 2022 and the Carole Olsen-Bryan Memorial Scholarship and Terence P. O’Neill Memorial Scholarship in 2023. He also benefitted from the VC Promise Program, which the VC Foundation funded in 2006 to establish the first community college Promise program in the state which offers free tuition and fees to first-time, first-year, full-time students and eligible second-year students. When asked about these achievements, Diego displays his trademark humility and thoughtfulness.
“I was able to meet one of my donors when I attended the 2022 Scholarship Awards Ceremony,” recalls Diego. “I was able to meet Dr. Ruth Hemming. It was amazing, in the sense that we introduced ourselves to each other, and we started talking to each other about what I wanted to do.
“We started talking more, and were asked to take a picture together. I held my scholarship certificate up, and we took a picture together. It was remarkable. Here I am being blessed by someone who wanted to give back to her community, to help those who wanted to further their education in life. By helping me, she is showing me there are others who want to help students like me. To me, that is special. As I get older, I also want to be able to give back to my community.”
For now, Diego is quite clear on the when, where, why, and how surrounding his plans to give back. He’s equally confident that he can help improve the future for his Mexican-American community.
“Although things right now are in darkness, at the end of the tunnel, there is a light,” says Diego. “In order for us to see that light, we have to keep going forward—no matter what’s happening. One of the greatest contributions from Mexican-Americans is that we’ve looked out for our people. We espouse solidarity. I would like to show Mexican-Americans as people who are present. We are not forgotten. We have always been here. We have our own culture. Our own pride. All to be cherished. These traditions and customs link us to the past. And that grounds us to the present. And it all leads us to a future that is brighter.”
Diego knows he wouldn’t have been able to move confidently forward into that bright future without the support of Ventura College Foundation and their giving donors. He hopes other current and future Ventura College students also reach out if they’re in need of assistance.
“I would say to my fellow students, know that there are people who want to reach out to you in more ways than one, and all you have to do is to reach out back to them,” explains Diego. “By phone, email, or in writing. They’re always there. You just have to reach out to them and communicate with them.”