Berkeley Bound: Delano Student Celebrates Academic Achievement

Monday June 3, 2024

First-generation students, often referred to as “first-gens,” are college-bound individuals whose parents did not pursue higher education. This significant milestone represents a break from familial and often socio-economic traditions, symbolizing hope, perseverance, and the pursuit of greater opportunities. For many first-gens, the journey to higher education is fraught with unique challenges and triumphs. Below is one in a series of stories about Kern County first-gens as they embark on the next chapters of their lives.

To nominate someone for a story in this series, please reach out to communcations@kern.org

Joshua Alfaro has risen above numerous challenges from humble beginnings to achieve academic success. He will graduate from Delano High School on June 7, with both a high school diploma and a college degree in hand. This fall, he will continue his education at UC Berkeley, one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Alfaro’s journey began in a low-income household in Kern County. His family faced many financial challenges, but he remained determined to excel academically and pursue higher education. Alfaro completed dual enrollment courses, earning college credits while still in high school. This path allowed him to graduate with an AA degree in liberal arts.

He says taking college courses while in high school has given him the confidence to take on UC Berkeley.

“I feel like I can do it because I basically did it all through high school,” he said. “I feel like I’m well-rounded from all the college classes.”

Alfaro’s academic journey is not just a personal triumph but an unprecedented achievement for his family as he becomes the first in his immediate family to embark on a four-year university education. He plans to major in architecture with a minor in environmental science and hopes to create sustainable housing for low-income families one day.

“I want to travel and go to developing countries and help improve their systems to make them more efficient,” he said.

Alfaro will attend UC Berkeley in the fall.

Shondra Walker, principal of Delano High School, spoke highly of Alfaro’s leadership skills and determination. He is a well-rounded student, serving as senior class president and is also the drum major for the school’s marching band.

“A lot of my focus has been on music the last year. I want to join the marching band but I’m not sure yet because I might be too busy the first year,” he said.

Alfaro’s support system includes his teachers, school counselors, and his family. Despite initial concerns about moving away for college, his father researched UC Berkeley and wholeheartedly supported his decision.

“I was nervous about Berkeley because I didn’t think my dad was going to want me to go away. But, he told me ‘you definitely need to go there,’” Alfaro explained. “My mom was always posting on her Facebook. Every time we got an acceptance letter, she was more excited than me.”

At UC Berkeley, Alfaro looks forward to leveraging the resources offered by the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). This program will provide him with tutoring, priority registration, and other resources tailored to minority students.

“They just have a long list of resources and things that will basically help me in college so I thought that I would thrive with all the extra help,” he said.

Drum Major Joshua Alfaro with his parents.

The Delano High School community is proud of Alfaro and other students who have made significant strides in their education. Principal Walker highlighted the school’s efforts to inspire and support students through various programs and events, such as the senior signing assembly, college-themed events, and partnerships with local colleges.

“We had a senior signing assembly earlier this week where we recognized all 152 seniors that are going to a college or enlisting in the military,” she said. “It was really great to see so many kids making that choice to continue to pursue education.”

Alfaro advises fellow students to focus on themselves and their goals.

“It gets very competitive, looking at other students like ‘this kid has better grades than me.’ But I was able to focus on myself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no one here that’s going to be able to convince you,” he said.

He says he will miss home, but is looking forward to all the new experiences that university life will bring.

“I feel like I’m going to miss it, especially my parents,” he said. “[But] the campus is so big so it’ll be better for me to pursue more passions and get involved more.”

Joshua Alfaro’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, hard work, and support. As he embarks on his journey at UC Berkeley, he carries with him the hopes and aspirations of his community, proving that with determination and the right support, anything is possible.

“We’re very proud of all of our students,” Walker said. “It’s just amazing to see how much they’ve accomplished.”

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.