George Casarez: Leading the Way for Generational Healing Via Education
Single father to two teenage girls. Instructional aid in the Rio School District. Re-entry student and scholarship recipient at Ventura College set to graduate by 2025.
George Casarez is all of this and more—and his life is forever enriched thanks to the Ventura College Foundation.
George is currently attending three classes at Ventura College while doting on his daughters and working at his education job. Each day, he falls deeper in love with all aspects of his life.
“I would have never thought I would be working in a classroom with students, teaching them to read, assessing them, and testing them,” says George. “Being in a position to help shape the lives of an elementary student's life means the world to me.”
All of this means even more to George when he pauses to consider just how drastically his life has blossomed in the past few years.
“I had lost my job and my home and went through hard times,” remembers George. “I never wanted to have my kids be in that situation again, and furthering my education would eliminate that from ever happening again. A true blessing came along when a family from my church opened their doors to me and my girls. My church missionary for Ventura stepped in and helped in many ways and people brought my family boxes of food. Some even helped me with my bills.”
Also of great assistance during George’s remarkable life transformation? The Ventura College Foundation—particularly the Eleanor Tillquist Phoenix Scholarship.
“The Ventura College Foundation played a major role in my story, helping me get through tough times,” explains George. “The Foundation scholarship helped me stay on my feet when I was looking for work. It allowed me to not stress out. It lightened the burden that came with paying rent for a while and having gas to get around—and also helped me feed my two beautiful daughters, Esmi and Anavaeh.
George vividly recalls the day he received notification that he had been awarded the Phoenix scholarship from the Foundation.
“The day I read the email that I was going to be awarded a scholarship, I jumped for joy,” says George. “I shared the good news with my daughters in hopes they would one day have faith that they would get one as well. I felt as if I wouldn't be awarded a scholarship, but I’m so glad I did.”
Of course, it all started with George’s own bold decision to return to school at age 42. Every day of his life, George sees that decision as pivotal to his confidence, healing, and growth.
“If I would have never gone back to school, I would have never had the confidence to apply to work for a school district,” states George. “It took many sit downs with mentors of mine, discussing if going back to school was a good idea or not.”
The trajectory of George’s life is definitely trending upward. Before long, he plans to continue his education at nearby CSU Channel Islands.
“I was able to put some scholarship money in savings to help me when I attend CSU Channel Islands,” says George. “Since I’ve decided to go back to college, my 17-year-old daughter also started taking courses as a dual-enrollment student at Ventura College. My daughters and I all study together and I’m much more involved with their education now. Since returning to college, I’ve received all A's—and have even scored the highest percentage out of all students in one class.”
George also has inspiring words of advice to share with both incoming Ventura College students and those who teach and inspire them on a daily basis.
“I would tell incoming students to not be intimidated by the process or listen to negative things people say about possibly not getting a scholarship,” advises George, who is particularly grateful for the assistance of James Vega in the Ventura College Tutoring Center. “Just fill out the application and go to the workshops, make good connections with staff, and go by the tutoring center to get help. There's so much help at the college. People are on standby just waiting for students to come in and get help.”
“To my instructors, I would say thank you for the encouragement and thank you for believing in me and working with me through tough assignments. Thank you especially to professors Anna Carlson and Jenna Garcia for helping me get through tough times, including when my daughters and I got into an accident and when one of my daughters contracted COVID. The entire Ventura College staff has been kind and caring and has always led me in the right direction to help me achieve my goal.”
Ever gracious, aware, and appreciative, George is particularly thankful for the donors of the Ventura College Foundation.
“I had a dream last year about going back to school and furthering my education to help show my kids it’s never too late to go back to school and to make a better living for your family,” says an emotional George. “I wanted to become stable as a family and obtain the future that was meant for me. Your kind donations helped me keep that dream alive. I am so glad God placed it in your heart to donate and help those who need a little push to keep going. This opportunity has given me the strength to continue on the journey that God has placed me on.”
The way George sees it, Foundation donors have not only helped him and his immediate family, but entire generations of Casarez—past, present, and future.
“Not only have they helped me, but they have helped future generations in my family tree who will also further their education,” explains George. “Knowing my daughters are watching me through this process gives me joy. I know It’s planting seeds in their minds that they can also go to college to obtain their dreams.
“They have also helped break family curses that have been around for generations. Ones that have said college isn't for us, you can't do it, you will never make a lot of money, just go straight into the workforce. So me and my entire family are forever grateful for the Ventura College Foundation donors.”