Alejandro Contreras is a current PACE Promise Scholar, attending California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), and Board Member for The San Marcos Promise (TSMP). As an elementary school student, he realized that learning was his passion and working hard was a way of life, resulting in completed assignments, high grades, and respect from teachers. Once he began middle school, all of his ambitions disappeared because of the many labels he was given as a Hispanic boy: hoodlum, gangster, criminal and deviant. He was always told “Latino boys do not get a college education.”
Overwhelmed and hopeless, he took what he had learned and became what so many teachers and adults preached; a thug. He disobeyed his parents, teachers, and any form of authority. This pattern led to an offer to join a local gang. To Alex, the gang felt like another home and a family where he could forget about how he was not wanted or desired, despite the fact he had a real family at my real home.
Fortunately, he stalled on their offer and reached the seventh grade where he was introduced to the PACE Promise, a guaranteed college admissions and scholarship program to attend CSUSM. His favorite memory from 7th grade was the PACE field trip to CSUSM where he had the chance to see college students from all different ethnic and economic backgrounds interacting together. People like him. Inspired by the diversity he saw on campus, he improved his GPA drastically and ultimately qualified as a PACE Scholar.
Today, Alex is a senior at CSUSM pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish. As a first generation college student he has set new expectations for his siblings and inspired them to appreciate education and the doors it will open. Alex has devoted his life, work, and future plans to the Promise because without it, his life outcome would have been dramatically different. As a result of the Promise, the future is now brighter than ever for Alex and his family.