Giovani Bautista: VC Promise Spotlight
FROM VENTURA COLLEGE TO CAL BERKELEY TO USC
Giovani Bautista can remember a time not too long ago when life seemed a lot less certain — and a college education seemed almost surely out of reach.
“I came to California from Michoacán, Mexico, at age 11,” remembers Giovani. “I started middle school in Oxnard. I didn’t speak any English. It was the first time that I had been in a classroom or even seen textbooks.”
Now 25, Giovani has traveled every bit as far as he did when he left Mexico for Ventura County. After time at two high schools, he landed at Ventura College thanks to the Ventura College Foundation’s VC Promise program. Working a job and still skeptical about his academic future, he soon discovered inspiration, empowerment, and a true love for writing. Before he knew it, he was graduating from Ventura College with a 3.8 GPA before moving on to the University of California, Berkeley — earning a communications degree in three years. Then it was off to the University of Southern California (USC), where he currently works towards a master’s degree in counseling.
Giovani is quick to credit a pair of professionals at Ventura College. English professor Amanda Martin gave him confidence and sparked his love of writing, while counselor Robert Chaparro provided access to even more school resources, and an additional push to pursue his dreams.
“I wasn’t considering going to college right after high school,” recalls Giovani. “I had a terrible experience in high school. I had very bad grades and I was undocumented, so I thought there was no opportunity for me. I heard a representative from Ventura College talk about the VC Promise.
I ended up applying and getting in, but I wasn’t very optimistic. I had graduated from high school without knowing how to write an essay.”
Giovani remembers Professor Martin encouraging him after he handed in his first essay. “She saw potential in me and believed in me from the very first day,” says Giovani. “She gave me a lot of feedback and pushed me to do better for myself.”
Giovani says that the Ventura College Foundation assisted him generously with his education, with Chaparro steering him toward grant opportunities. He also threw himself wholeheartedly into extensive work with the Ventura undocumented immigrant community, helping teach them English and even working his way up to serve as Vice President of the Oxnard College D.R.E.A.M Club.
The time, work, experiences, relationships, and opportunities from his time at Ventura College will never be forgotten, says Giovani. He sees tremendous potential for current aspiring students — even for the ones who might not feel confident in the classroom yet.
“I would tell them to reach out, to ask a lot of questions and to not be afraid to fail,” says Giovani. “Failing is part of academics, and part of life. Failing does not define who you are. Explore different fields and careers. There are allies at Ventura College. Professors, counselors, students. Be curious. Ask yourself a lot of questions. It can take you far.”