West Valley College Student Gabe Abatecola is Achieving his Educational Goals
By Cosette Velazquez
Gabe Abatecola, a current Anthropology and Geography student at West Valley College, walked onto campus for the first time not knowing if he would transfer out of West Valley or not. But he heard about Puente, a college program designed to support Latinx and other first-year students.
In high school, Gabe lacked motivation and earned a 2.0 GPA just so he would be eligible to play sports. But he never felt the drive to aim for anything higher. Once he got to college, he couldn’t seem to wrap his mind around what community college was even for. He had heard horror stories about students getting stuck at a community college for years, and that scared him. “Ultimately it was up to me to find the right mindset to navigate myself through college, but Puente is a massive reason for my turnaround as a student.”
Gabe had never achieved a 3.0 before this year, but today he is proud to say he stands at a 3.4 GPA and is waiting to hear back from UC Berkeley, UCSC, UCSB, UCLA, SJSU, and Cal Poly regarding his recent transfer applications.
When he arrived at West Valley, he decided to join Puente, a program dedicated to helping students build bridges to higher education. Gabe says he would highly recommend that every incoming college student take advantage of a mentoring and cohort-based program, especially Puente. Puente is a program that suits all backgrounds, whether you’ve always been a straight-A student, or are looking for a fresh start. Through Puente, Gabe was able to network with his peers and professors, felt motivated to work towards transferring to a four-year university, and was set up to succeed as a student both academically and outside of the classroom.
Other first-year student support programs include Umoja, concentrating on African American/Black students, and First Year Experience or FYE, supporting first generation students and others who want additional cohort, faculty, and counseling-based support.
Gabe learned a lot about the community college system and what it takes to transfer to a university through Puente. “Students in Puente learn the transferring basics on day-one at West Valley, like navigating paths such as IGETC,” the path of courses required to transfer to a UC or CSU campus.
Gabe is appreciative of the fact that Puente paired him with a mentor who has similar interests as him. “I was lucky enough to be paired with an on-campus professor, geology instructor Dr. Lopez.” Dr. Lopez introduced him to some great classes that suited his interests and that would be transferrable in the future. At one point, the two were classmates and went on a week-long camping and hiking trip during a summer Ecology course they were enrolled in.
“Puente made it apparent what goals I could be working towards. My counselor, Joe Bucher, and English teacher, Leslie Saito Liu, the Puente Faculty coordinators, weren't only what their job titles portrayed. They are both a reliant support system and friends of mine who always kept me motivated to work towards my goals of transferring to a 4-year university.”
“Joe is a massive inspiration of mine. He is the true example of overcoming obstacles to eventually succeed and he uses parts of his story to motivate his students. He isn't just a counselor to me, but a friend and mentor that I look up to. Joe cares about each individual student and will never leave you behind while at West Valley. Whether you need help with academic plans or just want to have a conversation about the day, I am convinced that Joe is the greatest counselor and teacher I could have had.”
His other professors have been a helpful too. “I must make it clear that it is entirely up to the student to form a good relationship with their professors. Don’t be scared to interact with your teacher... it is their job in the end to be there for their students and I have found that 99% of professors highly enjoy being able to interact with their students outside of their lectures. Specifically, Anthropology instructor Andy Kindon and Geography instructor Joe Hasty were two of the greatest teachers I have ever had who truly enjoy what they do and helping out students.”
“If I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to join a program like Puente, I probably would have dropped out of school after the first year. Great support systems like Puente have kept me motivated to succeed and realize what some of my goals can be in the future. Two and a half years after my first day of college, I find myself confident and ready to take on many challenges that might come my way.” -- Gabe Abatecola