Andrew Daniel Rocha grew up in an East Los Angeles neighborhood corroded by gang violence. He became the first member of his family to attend college, living out of his car for a time to make ends meet while at Pasadena Community College.
With an associate’s degree in mathematics and $400 in his pocket, Rocha moved to Tucson and enrolled in the University of Arizona. With help from multiple scholarships, he will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in optical sciences and engineering and a wealth of research experience from working as an intern at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. He plans to pursue doctoral studies in optical sciences.
“However challenging my situation is, my motivation to break through a socioeconomic barrier and make my mother proud keeps me moving forward,” said Rocha, who was among 200 students, faculty, alumni and friends attending the UA College of Engineering’s 2017 scholarship reception on March 28 at the Tucson Marriott University Park.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, the College of Engineering awarded scholarships to 236 undergraduate and graduate students totaling over $1 million, including scholarships from industry.
“Without the help of our partners, it would be very difficult for many of our students to come here, so we really can’t thank you enough,” Dean Jeff Goldberg told donors. He congratulated students on succeeding in highly demanding academic programs and encouraged them to persevere in pursuing their passions.
“If you’re doing something you really love, it may very well be hard -- but when you get that feeling of success, it makes it all worthwhile,” he said, before introducing alumni speaker Christian Montoya.
Montoya established a scholarship less than two years after graduating in 2015 with UA bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and computer engineering. He is one of the College’s youngest donors.
“I want other outstanding engineers to reach for their goals and dreams without having as much financial worry,” said the program manager for Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services.
The Gift of Time
Ryan Hancock, one of several mining engineering students with George Delos Gardner/Eugene Delos Gardner Scholarships, told of how the support smoothed the way for him to do volunteer work, be a mine manager at the UA’s student-run San Xavier underground mine, and intern for a summer at Freeport-McMoRan, where he has a full-time job lined up after graduation.
“I grew up knowing my family could not afford to put me and my two siblings through college,” said the senior from Yuma, Arizona, whose father, Andy Hancock, a crop specialist and graduate of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was in the audience. “Without scholarships, I would likely never have gotten this job because I would have had to work on weekends.”
Scholarship recipients credited benefactors not only with providing financial support for them to reach academic and career goals but also with freeing them up to enjoy a rich and meaningful student life.
Estefania Hurtado, a junior in industrial engineering, has worked for the UA Office of Admissions, as a counselor in the Summer Engineering Academy, a proctor in the Testing Office and a sandwich maker in the Student Union. Still, she has time to see friends, explore Arizona and enjoy life.
“Without my jobs and my W.E. & Lucille Barnum Scholarship, I would not have been able to do it all,” she said.