Undocumented student: From unschooled to a UC

Kayla Grizzle, Staff Writer

Third year Erick Almaguer, Spanish Major with an emphasis in English, lived on his own with his younger brother in Mexico and was offered no formal schooling until his mother brought him to the U.S. when he was 13 years old.

Almaguer graduates on June 28 from De Anza College with a full ride to UC-Riverside and a GPA of 3.31.

Finishing off his first year at De Anza with a GPA of 2.8 and his second year with a GPA of 2.7, Almaguer leaves the question: How does a student with very little schooling and a low GPA raise his GPA by such an exponential amount and get into a UC on a full scholarship in just one year?

His inspiration came from Dr. Kim Palmore, Almaguer’s English professor, who took him aside after class and mentored him on how to perform better in his schooling.

When Almaguer first talked to Palmore, he had hoped to transfer to a state school after his second year, though Palmore quickly showed him that he was not ready for the workload.

“I wanted to transfer to Humboldt State or San Jose State,” said Almaguer. “But after I talked to Kim, she told me that I wasn’t ready. She told me that I could improve my grades and possibly get in to a better school. I had those schools in mind because I didn’t think I could handle the academics; I never even thought of UC’s at all.”

Almaguer had more on his plate than simply being behind in his classes, including being a low-income, undocumented student and being on the track team.

Being on a sports team is hard enough with schooling because of time constraints, and because he was undocumented, he could not receive financial aid and paid for his classes at De Anza out of his own pocket. With the high cost, a UC seemed completely out of reach.

Palmore gave him the information and support to improve his academics, and in spite of the fact that no one from his family has graduated high school let alone college, Almaguer’s hard work and determination were the real keys to his achievement.

“He’s a very diligent student,” said Palmore. “I told him you have to do this and this and you have to get these grades and you have to do it in this order and he did that. That’s the tricky part. I can give everybody the same clues but not everybody will do it. Some will work hard for only a week before falling into the same pattern.”

Almaguer limited the number of classes he took at a time and focused on participating more often in class and asked his teachers for outside help.

His determination got him admittance into well-known schools such as UC-Santa Cruz and UC-Santa Barbara, but UC-Riverside spoke to him in a way that the others did not.

“When I was there, I felt comfortable,” said Almaguer. “And I met some people there in the Latino club and they were really friendly. They said they could help me and support my academics.”

Almaguer hopes to pursue Latin American Studies at UC-Riverside and to go to graduate school to further his academic career.