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student success
Student success story
student success story
student success story

Eddy MarroquinTop of Page

Eddy Marroquin began taking classes at Sequoia Adult School three years ago before transitioning to classes at Cañada College. She continues her studies at Cañada College with continued support from her friends. See and hear her story below.

Marvin GarciaTop of Page

Marvin Garcia came to the U.S. when he was 17 years old.  He started his classes at Sequoia Adult School soon after he arrived. Martin remembers his first class with teacher Wendy in level 1. Martin completed all his classes within 2 years and transferred to Cañada College. He has been studying at Cañada for the past year. Martin is a bakery chef now but his dream is to finish Cañada, get his GED at Sequoia, and study to become a police officer or a firefighter. This is how he feels he could give back to the community. Currently, Martin is a proud volunteer tutor in teacher Wendy’s class helping level 1 students with their learning of English.

Sequoia Adult Alumni & SASS Scholars

Cecilia Andrade

Rosie Foraker with Natacha Matute

Guadalupe Paramo

Angel G. Lara-Parga

Lorenza Salazar Villanueva

Rick J. Alarcon Sisniegas

Maria Anaya Rodriguez

Sergio Lua

Adriana Carreño

Elmer Trujillo

Kenneth Palle

Karen Rojas

Amado Flores

Ramon Alvarez


Lorenza Salazar

Lorenza Salazar spent eighteen months on a waiting list to get into Alicia Perez’s Spanish GED Class. She called the front office at least once a week to check her status on list. Her work space at home was already prepared. The small table was set up with the calculator ready and the chair set just so; a study method she learned from her father who was a teacher. Now all she needed was a place in the class.

Her patience paid off and in December of 2014 she landed a spot in Alicia’s class. She set a goal of getting her GED in only six months! Drum roll please…… She just completed her GED! This was no small achievement for this single mother who has been dealing with diabetes for the past ten years. “I tell people never stop, you can do it,” she stated with pride. And, she shared her secret to success, “After class I would spend forty-five minutes studying with my book and on my day off I would go to the Redwood City Library and use the online resources for 3 to 4 hours.“

“You need people around you supporting your efforts,” Lorenza explained. She mentioned how essential the emotional support of her daughter was to her success. She is extremely grateful to Natacha Matute, the adult school counselor. ”Natacha would call me and email me to make sure I was doing okay. I really needed that support,” Lorenza told me.

Now it’s on to a Bachelor’s degree!

Rick J. Alarcon Sisniegas

Rick J. Alarcon Sisniegas is a young man from Perú. After graduating from high school in 2009, he worked in his family’s restaurant while waiting to take his college exams. He was disappointed that he did not get into the college of his choice and spent a year at another school. In 2013 when the opportunity arose, for him and his mom to come to the United States, he jumped at the chance.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Rick felt very intimidated. “You don’t know where to go or what to do,” he explained. He went on to say, “It’s pretty impossible to find a job without English language skills.” He was grateful to discover Sequoia District Adult School so he could continue his English as a Second Language studies. At the adult school, Rick met Melissa Martinez, College Transition Advisor. She provided the assistance he needed to continue his education, including access to scholarships from the Sequoia Adult School Scholars foundation which provided financial assistance for textbooks and transportation.

In Fall 2014, Rick focused his studies on Math and English. He recently earned the Preparation for Academic Scholarship and Success (PASS) Certificate from Cañada College and was awarded a Cañada scholarship. Rick plans to transfer to a four year university in Fall 2015.

Rick is a hard working student and his goal is to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Economics. As a matter fact, he often works so much that his mother needs to remind him to go out with his friends and have some fun; to which he replies, “No mom, I have to achieve my goals!”

Rick is a wonderful real-life example of Abraham Lincoln’s statement, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Maria Anaya Rodriguez

Maria Anaya Rodriguez came from El Salvador in 2009. She credits Sequoia District Adult School in helping her to be successful. “Here at this school I found a connection to community. You find everything you need at this school. When you are recently arrived you don’t know where to go for anything, how to talk to a doctor or find other services. I found all this and more at the Adult School,” she said.

Prior to coming to the U.S., Maria worked at a hi-tech company as executive assistant for 26 years in El Salvador. But moving to the United States meant starting all over again, beginning with learning a new language. Maria remembers, “I came to Sequoia Adult School to learn English. On my first trips to the school, I rode my bicycle because I did not want to drive without a license!” She smiled and continued, “It is a good way to learn my way around.” And learn her way around she did. After completing her ESL classes at the adult school, she transitioned to Cañada College where she completed her ESL courses.

Maria then made it her goal to earn the Cañada College Certificate of Achievement- Preparation for Academic Scholarship and Success (PASS); she has already earned two of the four certificates in Office Administration. Ultimately her goal is to capture a Certificate of Achievement in Bookkeeping. Additionally, Maria was awarded her U.S. Citizenship in Spring 2015 and she developed her own method for studying for the exam!

Maria expresses her love of learning as well as her gratitude to those who helped her along the way. Maria is well aware that without organizations such as Sequoia District Adult School, Sequoia Adult School Scholars, and Cañada College her goal of becoming an accountant would be a distant dream. She was quick to single out the counselors who played, and continue to play, a significant role in guiding her scholastic life. She wishes to acknowledge Diana Espinoza Osuna and Sandra Mendez for their assistance and guidance. Her advice to others is, “Follow your dreams and never give up!”

Sergio Lua

Sergio Lua looks back on being a student at Sequoia Adult School with fond memories. Sergio says, “If it wasn’t for Sequoia Adult School, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” So where is Sergio Lau today? In May 2015, he graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and he has recently been accepted to the University of San Francisco’s Master’s Program in family therapy.

In 2004 when Sergio began his classes at Sequoia Adult School his goal was to study English and return to Mexico with English in his toolbox of skills. While at the adult school, staff recommended that he also take his GED. After completing his ESL classes and earning his GED fate intervened. Sergio was involved in a bad car accident that prevented him from returning to Mexico. When he had recuperated, Sergio with the encouragement of a family friend and a supportive spouse enrolled in Cañada College. He would later transfer to the College of San Mateo before enrolling in Notre Dame de Namur University.

The biggest challenge Sergio had to overcome was being able to believe in his own abilities. “I thought it was only a dream, a dream that you saw on television.” Sergio said when he spoke of graduating from college and was describing the students throwing their caps in the air. A major motivating influence for Sergio was the fact that other people believe so strongly in his ability to achieve success, from the supportive staff at the Sequoia Adult School to his wife, and to his family friend. “And the funny thing was, after all those years of dreaming about it, I never threw my cap in the air!” Sergio said with a smile.

Kenneth Palle

Sequoia Adult School Scholar recipient Kenneth Palle was selected to be the keynote student speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration of Los Mandatos College in Pittsburgh, CA. Kenneth is an excellent example of a tenacious student. When 16-year-old Kenneth Palle immigrated to the US from Cameroon, he was all set to start high school. But his counselor at Menlo Atherton High School told him that, given the number of credits he would need to graduate, he should work towards a GED instead of a high school diploma.

Kenneth then enrolled in Sequoia District Adult School, where he took GED preparation classes and passed the GED exam only six months later. His next step was Cañada College, where he took introductory classes in 2012-13 in math, biology, political science, and economics. His SASS scholarship paid for hundreds of dollars in textbooks.

In September, 2013, Kenneth Palle moved to Pittsburg, CA where he enrolled in Los Medanos College and continues to receive a SASS scholarship. SASS’s policy of supporting recipients when they move outside of San Mateo County has been a lifesaver. “Without money for books, I couldn’t continue my education,” Palle says.

Kenneth Palle continues his studies at Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh, CA.

Karen Rojas

Dean’s list student Karen Rojas is well on her way to becoming the first SASS recipient to earn a certificate in medical assisting.

Karen came to the U.S. when she was 19 and hit the ground running, working full time as a supermarket cashier, taking an ESL class at Sequoia District Adult School, and caring for her two younger brothers.

Karen transferred to Cañada College and completed all of her required ESL classes in 2013. Now, her focus is on classes required for her certificate as an administrative medical assistant, which she is scheduled to receive in June. After that, she plans to get a job in her new field while taking the additional medical assisting classes she needs to work directly with patients.

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez came to this country when he was 16. He’d had eight years of schooling in Mexico and knew no English. Like many immigrants, he came here so that he could send money back to his family in Mexico.

Soon after Ramon arrived, he landed a job working for $8.25 an hour as a dishwasher. Now, ten years later, he’s a sous chef with a salary of $36,000 a year plus benefits.

Ramon attributes his success to the ESL classes and computer classes he started taking three years ago, first at Sequoia District Adult School and then at Cañada College. All of Ramon’s college textbooks and parking passes were paid for by SASS scholarships.

“I use English every day,” Ramon says. “I need to talk to the waiters and talk to the managers. I also need to use the computer to order food, take inventory, and send emails. I learned those skills at the Sequoia District Adult School and then Cañada College.”

Due to the stresses of his new job—he has to commute from Redwood City to San Francisco—as well as family problems, Ramon had to stop taking classes mid-semester, but plans to return to college once his life settles down. Not surprisingly, his goal is to be a chef.

Elmer Trujillo

Elmer Trujillo came to the United States to improve his economic situation. He knew that in order to achieve his goals, he must learn English. He explained that learning English in Guatemala is very expensive. While it is taught in school, it is very basic.

When you first meet Elmer, you are struck by his openness and friendly manner. This demeanor must have served him well when he walked into the Rangoon Ruby Burmese Restaurant and asked the hostess, (in Spanish) if they needed a dishwasher. He filled out an application and was hired on the spot! Shortly thereafter, three days a week quickly turned into six days a week.

Elmer speaks with pride when he describes his ESL teacher and how much he enjoys his class, “She is strict in her ways but it pushes me to do better,” he said. He went on to tell a story that is an example of his dedication to his success. Elmer got home from work one morning at 2 a.m. He knew he had an English test in just a few hours and he really wanted to improve his score. (On his first test he had received a D. He was very disappointed in himself, but he continued to study and work hard so that on his next test he raised his grade to a C.) That night, although he was tired from a long shift, he stayed up to study. The next morning he took his test and continued his upward trend with a B grade.

Elmer is a great example of the Abraham Lincoln quote, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Elmer is doing a fine job of predicting his future; he intends to attend college and study Business Administration so that he can use his business skills to provide service to others. He says, “With dedication and perseverance one can be somebody.”

Adriana Carreño

In her home country of Mexico, Adriana wasn’t able to finish school. It wasn’t until she came to Sequoia Adult School that everything fell into place and she was inspired to continue her education. She said, “I felt comfortable from the moment I arrived, when I was greeted by the custodian and told I was in the right place.”

“Everyone in this school is so nice and helpful,” Adriana commented. The Adult School was quite a change from Adriana’s life two and a half years ago when she and her son found themselves facing down a gunman in a Redwood City coffee shop, a gun pointed at Adriana’s son’s head. “I need money now,” the gunman shouted. Adriana covered her son with her body. The other customers threw money at the assailant and he fled. Soon after recovering from this event, Adriana enrolled in the Adult School.

It was a relief for Adriana to experience such kindness and meet such helpful people at the Adult School. She commented, “People take the time because they care about you. Briana, Melissa, Soledad and my teacher, Jim, I feel connected to them.” She beamed as she explained that her teacher would repeat and gesture and repeat until he was sure she understood.

Adriana explained, “The Adult School is two blocks from my son’s school. I can take class here and then volunteer at my son’s school. [Head Start Program at Saint Anthony’s Church].” The teachers at the Head Start program noticed how well Adriana worked with the children whether teaching art classes, managing the playground, or helping the children get along. They encouraged her to study Early Childhood Education.

Adriana sought guidance from Melissa, the Adult School’s College Information Specialist, who arranged for her to receive a Sequoia Adult School Scholars scholarship which would pay for her books and helped Adriana to enroll in Cañada College Early Childhood Education classes.

Hearing Adriana’s story, it’s easy to be reminded of the 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney classic, With a Little Help from My Friends. In Adriana’s case, her Adult School friends helped transform her life.

Amado Flores

Four years ago, Amado Flores was taking ESL classes at Sequoia Adult School. Now he works as a Program Associate in the Adult School’s GED program. Amado’s goal is to be a civil engineer. Soon after he came in the US, Amado found a minimum wage job at a Mexican restaurant. He also took ESL classes, first at Sequoia Adult School, then at Cañada College.

Amado completed the ESL sequence at Cañada in a year. Now he is taking classes in math, engineering, physics, history, and sociology. He is on track to receive an Associate of Science degree in engineering from Cañada College in June and then transfer to a four-year university.

While studying at Canada College, Amado has been helped by a scholarship from Sequoia Adult School Scholars. that paid for his books and transportation to college. “What is amazing to me about this country is that there are people here who are willing to help people they don’t know, without judging them, without saying, ‘Oh, you are undocumented. Oh, you are Mexican. Oh, you are too old to go to school’.” Amado says, “Thanks to these people, I have been able to achieve what I didn’t believe I could achieve.”

Martha Liliana Marcos

Lily finished high school in El Salvador.  She came to the U.S in 2014 with her two young kids. She started at Sequoia Adult in level 1, continued with levels 2, 3, and 4. She then started her Cañada classes. She is taking English 100. Has taken all CBO classes. She is a full-time student. She will finish in 2019. Her goal is to go to SFSU to get her bachelors in Childhood education.
She never thought she would study so much because she is married, works full time, and has two kids. She worked at a restaurant for 6 months but decided that’s not for her. Now, Lili works at a pre-school in Redwood City as well as dedicating many hours to the community as a volunteer. Her husband takes care of her kids while Lily goes to school. They have decided for Lily to go to school and when finished, her husband will start his education at Cañada.