Services Success Stories

See how we change lives, one student at a time.

Meet some of our 2019 Resident Tuition Assistance Program (RTAP) Scholarship Award Recipients!

Justin Chang: Bringing social equity to high-tech

Justin Chang RTAP award recipient at UCLA

Justin is a freshman at UCLA studying Computer Science. He is the son of a single mother – they moved to the United States from Taiwan when Justin was a child – and is wary of applying for any student loans for fear of not being able to pay them back once he graduates. When he comes home for the holidays, he’ll be returning to Vineyard Crossing. After graduation, Justin wants to use his passion for computer science (particularly robotics: he placed 3rd in the state as a high school student!) to get a job in high-tech to help the community by creating applications and programs to improve people’s lives.

These programs will range from improving education to building a more connected society. Justin said, “As a representative of the low-income families, I also want to make these pieces of software affordable, so that all classes of people can avail to it.” Aside from being an excellent student, Justin was the captain of the track and cross-country teams, was the Robotics Club Officer, and received both academic excellence and volunteer spirit awards. He says that living as a MidPen resident has played a significant role in his accomplishments.

“Moving to the United States from Taiwan with a single mom was a challenge both mentally and financially,” Justin said. “With the help of MidPen Housing, my mom and I were able to live more comfortably, knowing that rent was affordable. Living here allowed me to focus all my attention in school.”

Tiffany Wong: Unlocking opportunities through understanding 

Tiffany Wong RTAP scholar studying Applied Psychology at NYU

Tiffany is a senior at New York University (NYU) and will earn her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology next spring. Once she graduates, she wants to use the skills she has learned to understand people better, help them be heard and have equitable access to opportunities, and ultimately be the best versions of themselves.

“Students at NYU are passionate about social advocacy,” Tiffany said. “Where they feel that there is a marginalized population that is not deserving of a platform to speak themselves, many of my peers choose to use their platform and privilege in order for others to be heard. It taught me that equity may not always mean having everyone receiving an equal share, but rather that people may have equal access to certain opportunities even if it means some people might ‘receive’ more than others. I look forward to using my voice and skills as a resource for those who may have disabilities. By combining my own identities in advocacy work, I look forward to also share the experiences I once had.”

Being a MidPen Housing resident – her family resides at Oroysom Village – showed Tiffany what equitable education and interventions may look like in a diverse environment. “Being at MidPen has brought light to me about how even simply having affordable housing can open up so many doors for people. I loved being able to be in an environment where I am able to learn from my peers, and to emulate their habits in order to pursue my dreams. Because of affordable housing, I was able to have the financial means to attend NYU, a private university across the country, in order to pursue a degree that I am extremely passionate about. Because the campus was so far away from home, it was a step that definitely pushed me out of my comfort some in order to for my thinking and experiences to be more diverse.”

Veronica Pantoja Calderón: Dreaming big

Veronica attends Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz and is currently studying to receive certificates in payroll and tax preparation after earning her Associate’s in Accounting. Veronica is a Dreamer — in other words, she came to the United States from Mexico before her 16th birthday and has lived here for more than five years. But because she is not a U.S. Citizen, she’s unable to apply for any state or federal financial aid. “I decided to be brave and enroll for college. I worked so hard during the summer to pay for my tuition, she said. “I worked in the fields picking raspberries.”

Veronica also credits MidPen and Schapiro Knolls for giving her whole family an opportunity for a better life. “Before having the opportunity to be a resident at Schapiro Knolls, we used to live in a one-bedroom apartment. My little brothers and I shared the room while my parents slept on the floor in the living room. Now my mom is going to the English classes. She is learning so much and she loves going. I am very grateful that we are not viewed just as residents. We are given the opportunity to grow with English classes, after-school program, financial labs, nutrition labs, and so much more. We really appreciate the opportunities that are given to us.”

Veronica’s plans for her future are inspired by her family, and she aspires to eventually transfer to CSU Monterey Bay to earn her bachelor’s degree and advance her accounting career. “I have two younger brothers who look up to me,” she said. “When I realized I was their role model, I knew I needed to go to college and that way encourage them to follow their dreams.”

María González: Social justice through social work

María is a resident of Via del Mar. She is also an immigrant — and the first in her family to attend and graduate from both high school and college. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from CSU Monterey Bay in 2016 and currently is a graduate student pursuing her Masters of Social Work at San José State University. She said, “As a young Latinx woman, I was never expected to go to college but I saw that the more education I had, the better I was able to serve marginalized individuals in my community.” Maria has family members with mental health problems, but due to lack of support, financial means, and bilingual professionals, they were untreated — and often self-medicated. This was a primary reason for Maria choosing to study social work. “With the knowledge I have obtained through my education and personal experiences, not only do I want to serve those with mental health illnesses, but also other individuals in need. I have become committed to helping create equity and social justice for everyone in my community.”

And speaking of community, Maria shared that MidPen has given her and her family the opportunity to live in a dignified space and feel like part of a small community. “Everyone at MidPen, including staff, have been very attentive and considerate of my family’s needs. As a child, I attended the summer program at Via del Mar. It was extremely helpful and helped me grow as a person. The teacher at the summer program was the one who encouraged me to pursue higher education and told me I was capable of making change in my community. Being accepted as a resident at MidPen has been one of the best things that has happened to my family and me.”

Congratulations to all of our RTAP Scholarship recipients!