SBCC students take many different paths to arrive on campus. For Melissa Soria, that path included several local high schools, enrollment at the Grizzly Youth Academy—a program for teens on probation who have dropped out of high school or who are at-risk of dropping out—and motherhood.

Melissa learned about SBCC’s SPARC (Single Parents Arriving Ready for College) program when her son was just 18-months old. She met with Program Director Chelsea Lancaster and immediately enrolled in classes.

SPARC is a summer bridge program for single parent students who are new or returning to college. SBCC staff recruit single parents (98% women) through local social service agencies, high school counselors, and from shelters, for a six-week program combining college curriculum, enrichment activities, textbook assistance, counseling, tutoring, and financial assistance. During this time, their children are cared for either at SBCC’s on-campus Orfalea Early Learning Center or at another licensed facility of their choice.

At first through SPARC and then through her work as a peer mentor in the EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) program, Melissa found stability and purpose at SBCC and in life.

“During the three years I was at SBCC, it was a rebirth for me. I found myself. I learned how to get up when I got knocked down and to get through the tough times. I could have easily given up, but SBCC built a space that helped build me back up and get back on track to accomplish my goals. I blossomed into a new and better version of myself.”

Melissa’s grit and determination were especially put to the test during the three semesters that she attended classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She did this with a small child at home and limited childcare assistance. She persevered and graduated in May 2021.

In August, Melissa moved up to the Bay Area where she matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley after receiving a full scholarship. Melissa and her son are thriving. They live in family student housing that is close to campus and her son’s new elementary school.

Melissa’s goal is to someday work with “misguided” youth, perhaps as an attorney. Her dream is to develop programs and resources that help young people stay out of the justice system and that teach them to reach their full potential. She plans to share with future generations many of the valuable lessons she learned while at SBCC.

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