WATSONVILLE—Cabrillo College’s Watsonville Center has started up a new program that aims to welcome back and support students who left the school during the pandemic.
Ganas is a two-semester program encouraging previous students, especially those in South County, to return and resume their studies. Students receive counseling, mentoring, grants for textbooks, tutoring, workshops and more.
“A lot of people dropped out of college in March 2020,” said Sarah Hulick, Project Manager for Ganas and adjunct faculty member for the Horticulture Department. “All of a sudden, all their classes went online, overnight. They might not have had WiFi, or maybe their families got sick. People’s lives were just so upheaved.”
This was the case for student Aryanna Mendoza.
“Online classes were really difficult for me, when the pandemic first happened,” she said. “So I left school for a while.”
Mendoza first learned about Ganas at The Patio, an outdoor tutoring and support hub at the Watsonville Center. She had just returned to the school but was having trouble finding her footing.
“I needed help,” she said. “I was asking questions, and they brought up the program to me. It sounded really interesting.”
Ganas supplies students with Covid Emergency Cash Grants (based on how many units they take), Financial Aid counseling, academic counselors who can set up personalized education plans, tutoring and job/career services, workshops and more.
They also hold events, both online and in-person. Last month, current Dean of the Watsonville Center Eduardo Cervantes gave a presentation to students about his own academic journey. On Tuesday, Ganas hosted Transfer Chats, a virtual discussion meant to help students and their families learn about the process of transferring to four-year universities.
“We had a really good turnout,” said Karla Ramirez-Sorto, Ganas’ program specialist. “Students were interacting, asking a lot of questions. It was great.”
Cervantes thought of Ganas years before the pandemic. But the program was not able to get off the ground until the school received grant dollars from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in early 2021.
“Eduardo had a dream in mind,” Hulick said. “But he didn’t have the funding. When those grant dollars came in, he saw an opportunity. It’s one of those awesome things that came out of a really bad thing. A ‘Covid silver lining.’”
Ramirez-Sorto is a Cabrillo and CSUMB alum who herself experienced what it was like to leave and reenter school. At Ganas, she acts as a recruiter and mentor to help connect students with resources both on and off campus.
“I literally went through this, so I can empathize with them with everything going on,” she said.
Ganas is open to anyone who has been out of Cabrillo for the past 1-3 semesters due to the pandemic.
“It’s never too late to come back,” said Ramirez-Sorto. “And the thing is, we don’t just want to get them back in, but support them throughout the semester. We’re not just an entry program.”
As for Mendoza, she said she is planning to finish prerequisites at Cabrillo and then transfer to another school to become a veterinary technician.
“Everyone at Ganas is truly amazing, and if anyone has the opportunity to try out this program, I’d say jump on it,” she said.