Sonia Barajas is doing something no one in her family has ever done before. She is going to college. A pre-med student, Barajas is majoring in biology at Pacific Union College, an accomplishment which has distinguished her in her family and has also earned her a $5,000 Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship.
By attending Pacific Union College, Barajas is fulfilling a life-long dream. "I wanted to attend a university since I was a little girl," she says. "I noticed that none of my family members went to a university, so I wanted to break that chain." Barajas' parents are Adventist immigrants from Mexico. She says that they have always worked very hard as farm workers, but have only received very low wages.
It is for low-income Latino families like her own that Barajas is attending school.
Barajas is planning to return to the Latino community with her bilingual skills and a medical degree. For her, practicing medicine is not about an income but about a ministry. She is willing to talk about the nice house and comfortable life that many of her classmates will obtain, but she carefully points out, "Giving to people is something I would like better. God has something for everybody... and medicine is something that I want to contribute."
An active student in both her church and high-school, Barajas was inspired to pursue her degree by her brother, who was in the air force. She says, "My brother came back and told me to really focus on going to school." Strong in the sciences, Barajas had been in advanced placement classes since she was in junior high. In addition to this, she was very involved in band, martial arts, and Latino organizations at her school. She had even gotten to know the professors at UC Davis while working summers in the entomology department there.
When it came time for Barajas to apply to schools, she sent her name to several... and was accepted by them all.
The list of schools clamoring for her attention included Cornell University in New York. However, after visiting Cornell at the school's behest, she chose to remain close to home and attend Pacific Union College.
Financing was difficult to come by for Barajas, but with the help of PUC's admissions counselor Isaías Jocobo, she was able to secure several scholarships, including the scholarship from the Coca-Cola Foundation. The Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship, funded with a $500,000 grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation, is the only one of its kind in California. It was created to help students like Barajas become the first in their families to attend college, and it will provide nearly 100 scholarships on 25 college campuses across the state.
For Barajas, the scholarship has given her the opportunity to follow her lifelong dreams and to give life back to her community.