Jessica Gerow, 2020 OLA Scholarship Winner
Jessica describes her journey of personal growth and empowerment through experiences that have turned her into a tremendous role model. Becoming a single mother at 15 and having to raise her child with no support from family took a lot of courage, strength, and determination. Her son, Diego, is now 13 and she acknowledges herself as a key role model as she attends college. She adds, “This not only has inspired him to start planning for college, but has created a deeper respect for me as he has watched me grow as well."
Her growth is tightly wrapped around the concept of “Selfless Service.” She has dreams of making a positive impact on people’s lives. Serving our country for the past five years and becoming a police officer are two perfect examples of Jessica’s unselfish nature. She believes in making sacrifices to help make a difference in her community. She reflects as she nears her goal of becoming an officer, “I couldn’t be more excited to continue my service through a lifelong career by helping to build a better community.
No one can explain better than Jessica how poverty has made her journey very difficult and how it has made her a better person:
“I remember feeling so helpless and trapped, barely being able to make ends meet for myself and my son. Now, I feel empowered and equipped with new plans as well as positive thoughts. Sometimes we fall so we can learn how to get up. Living my life in poverty has humbled me in the best ways. I will never forget where I came from and the communal spirit to give that poverty has created in me.”
Her Academic Skills Advisor, Beth Wolff, from Veterans Resource Center wrote:
“Jessica is a survivor and a warrior and way more powerful than she lets on. She was raised in deep poverty but was smart, creative and resilient enough to pull herself through.”
Growing up and living in East Palo Alto provided Jessica many opportunities to contribute to the Latinx community. She frequently donates personal clothes and household items to her neighbors in need and, through the Ecumenical Hunger Program, serves food and distributes clothing and holiday gifts to local families. As part of the Dream Volunteers cohort, she created educational videos to share with kids in Guatemala and Puerto Rico to help them learn English. Finally, her son, Diego, has been enrolled in schools with dual-language immersion programs to assure that he graduates with a deep connection with his Spanish-speaking community.
Jessica is transferring to San Jose State this fall with an ADT in psychology. She currently serves in the National Guard.
Comprised of Foothill faculty, staff, and administrators, Organización Latino Americana (OLA) fosters the academic success of Foothill College students of Latino descent through community building, advocacy, and the facilitation of support services. In addition, OLA promotes the awareness of diverse Latino culture and heritage. OLA sells tamales to raise funds to award a scholarship annually.