Salinas Adult School
Nominated in 2023
I've known Francisco Solano since his entry into my GED classroom in 2013. When he enrolled in my class, he was (like so many of my students) building a new life under very challenging circumstances. He was in the US alone, undocumented, working and improving his English. If that was not enough, after he transitioned into the GED program, and just before graduating, experienced an extreme crisis in his life. His challenges made everything harder, but he stayed in school, stayed working, and stayed focused on his plans to go to college. As a way to get some support and life skills for processing the distress of his crisis and isolation, I suggested that he might want to join a group called the Breakthrough Men's Community. It made enormous difference in his life that he continues to volunteer there to this day where he pays it forward to other men who find themselves in need support. After he got his GED, he enrolled in our local community college where completed 3 associate degrees before transferring to UC Santa Cruz. At UCSC, Francisco continued on his upward trajectory all the while staying connected to others around him by not only volunteering at Breakthrough but also at the university in his cellular and molecular biology program. He's also been part of several programs and events that promote equity and inclusivity for Hispanic undocumented students, and has returned to my class many times to speak to and inspire those who are now in the same chairs he occupied. He has just recently been accepted into the doctoral programs at both UCLA and UC Davis where he has chosen to work on cancer research. So, those are the typical (and not so typical) points that a teacher will have to touch on when nominating a deserving student, but I would be remiss if I didn't take a few sentences to add something that doesn't just jump off the page. Francisco Solano is a good man who lives that way not as an act or part of some ambition--he lives that way because he has remembered that he is as good now as a grown man as he was on the day he was born; and because he values himself, he can naturally and authentically treat others with the value they deserve. He is the epitome of the best of what adult education stands--a self-directed, self-valuing individual who has built/rebuilt himself under the most trying of circumstances and is still growing, integrated, contributing, and connected to the broader community .
Francisco started in the ESL program in 2010 and transitioned to the GED program in 2013. He graduated with his GED in 2015. He worked full-time in agriculture during his time at the Salinas Adult School and Hartnell College. He graduated with 3 associate degrees from Hartnell College and from the University of Santa Cruz with a bachelor of science degree in cellular and molecular biology. He has been accepted into the doctoral programs at both UCLA and UC Davis.