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Paying it Forward, by Elizabeth Castillo

The first of six daughters to attend college.

*Elizabeth Castillo, Homecoming Queen, Class of 1992, with parents, Abel and Maria Rosales.

When my sister Olga asked me to describe finding my way to college after high school, I didn’t want to discuss our disadvantages. Her own story, Demolition and Spring Break, is a story I loved reading, but I don’t exactly remember. Today, I’d like to discuss why I wanted to start this scholarship and what it means to me.

This story is about the help I received to become the first person in our family to attend college. Many inspiring stories of first-generation students who overcame obstacles were made possible by the angels who came into our lives, and those stories are worth telling.

My angel’s name is Tomasita Villarreal, and she was my Spanish teacher at Aptos High School. I remember her for so many reasons, mainly because I wasn’t the only student she helped. Her office was always busy with students who looked and talked like me—students from Watsonville who spoke Spanglish and dressed like Fly-girls. Not only did she help me apply to San Jose State University, but she helped me fill out the infamous FAFSA forms. She was the first person to describe dorm life to me and the first person to tell me that such an experience was attainable.

She often spoke about the disadvantages that minorities face. She said things like, “College is the best time of your life, but unfortunately, not everyone gets to go.” Additionally, she helped me write a paper to attain a private donation from a stranger in Soquel. None of these things would have happened if she hadn’t helped Latinx students like me, attending a homogenous school like Aptos High.

*Elizabeth Castillo Cinco De Mayo Queen, with John Walsh Cinco De Mayo King, Class of 1992.

When my sisters and I discussed this scholarship and its importance, the first person I thought of was Mrs. Villarreal. The second person was that stranger in Soquel. When my mother drove me to pick up the check from this private citizen, I remember asking my mom why he’d given the money. She said Todavía hay mucha buena gente en el mundo”: There are still good people in this world. This man, just like Mrs. Villarreal, did not have to give his own time or money. I remember that he was in a wheelchair and that when he handed me the check, he was smiling from ear to ear. It wasn’t much, but it helped cover books and supplies for two classes during my first semester at SJSU, and I was as grateful then as I am now. More important than money, these two individuals made me feel supported. I didn’t feel so alone when I approached my first day at SJSU.

Join us this year as we help the graduating class of 2022 at Aptos High School as well as students at Watsonville High School.

Today, I am fortunate enough to be able to give back. I am filled with joy when I think about the students our scholarship aims to help, students who need financial assistance more than most when fulfilling a college dream.

*Awards ceremony from 2019. The inaugural The Rosales Sisters' Scholarship.

Please join us in this effort. Our goal this year is to fundraise a total of $32,000, doubling what we were able to raise last year. I’m happy to say that we have just hit the $5,400 mark—within our online fundraising goal of $10,000. Our Annual Online Auction is happening now! Go to and bid on over 30 items, all benefitting first-generation or immigrant students on the central coast of California. Join us!

You can donate to our fund directly here. We are a 501(c)3 organization, tax ID #87-1608363. Thank you for helping us positively impact the lives of first-generation or immigrant students from the central coast of California.

*Olga Rosales Salinas, and Elizabeth Castillo with Aptos High School Principal Peggy Pughe.


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