Making family history

Giovanni Mata Magana rises above all odds–he’s the first of his family to graduate high school and attend college.

The odds, many would say, were stacked against Giovanni Mata Magana from the beginning. He grew up on what he calls the roughest block in East Palo Alto, where crime and violence were commonplace and drug dealers would give Magana small stipends to play soccer in the street to slow traffic while they conducted business. His mother speaks little English and works long hours to support Magana and his younger brother. His father is in prison and his brother has been in and out of jail for years. It would have been too easy for Magana to follow in their footsteps, but the easy road was not for Magana. He chose a different path and is now making family history.

When Magana comes to SCU in September, he will not only be the first in his family to attend college, but the first to graduate from high school. Even more, Magana is one of five incoming freshmen who will be attending SCU as a presidential scholar. Presidential scholars not only have outstanding academic records but, as Assistant Director of Admission Alexander Thome puts it, they are students who make you “jump out of your seat” when you read their application. The presidential scholarship is the University’s most prestigious scholarship for incoming freshmen and covers the cost of tuition.

This spring, Thome and a small team from SCU’s undergraduate admissions office surprised Magana at his high school, Eastside College Preparatory, with the good news. “He let out a big sigh of relief when he heard he was accepted and was awarded the scholarship,” Thome said. Magana had offers from other universities but chose SCU because of the campus community, small class size, and its close proximity to his family.

The other presidential scholars are Rae Anderson Heitkamp from Victoria, Minn.; Bennett On Wing Lee from Kailua, Hawaii; Kristin Anne Leonard from Milton, Mass.; and Charlotte Marie Lewis from Concord, Calif.

post-image Presidential material. Giovanni Mata Magana begins studying at SCU this fall as a presidential scholar—and he’ll be the first in his family to graduate from high school and attend college. Photo: Charles Barry
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