s
s
Sections
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

10,000 degrees, SaN RAFAEL

Executive Director: Kim Mazzuca

2015 revenue: $7,627,694

Contact: 415-459-4240, 10000degrees.org

___

See all Sonoma Gives stories here.


As a college adviser with 10,000 Degrees in Santa Rosa, Liz Padilla’s job is to help students from low-income backgrounds become the first in their families to earn a college degree, their single biggest ticket to a life of opportunity.

“When one low-income student is first in their family to graduate from college, the cycle of poverty is broken for that family and for future generations. Our communities, our state, and the whole world become better places,” the Larkspur-based nonprofit states on its website.

As Padilla helps students explore career options and navigate the college experience, she brings firsthand knowledge about how challenging the process can be.

She is the oldest child of immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, born in Santa Rosa and raised on a dairy farm in Healdsburg with her brother, Emmanuel, and sister, Jocelin. When she was 12, her family returned to Mexico.

“It was my dad’s dream to move back to his home country with his family,” said Padilla, 29. “I was terrified to live in Mexico. I had visited every year, but living there was different. I had to attend school and learn the language.”

Padilla and her siblings were good students, and her father made the decision to return to California after she completed ninth grade, though he didn’t fully realize the challenges she faced. Her father wanted the children to have options, but pursuing higher education wasn’t a subject they discussed.

“He saw that we enjoyed school, but he didn’t see the possibility of helping us. He knew it was better to move back,” Padilla said.

Once back in Sonoma County, Padilla enrolled in high school. One summer day before her junior year was a defining moment.

“My mom and I had a meeting with my high school counselor, whom I’d never met with. The meeting was cut short after the counselor told me I should apply to the junior college because I most likely wouldn’t make it through a four-year college.”

Padilla turned to her mother, who didn’t understand English, and said, “Ya nos vamos.” (“We’re done.”) Then they left. She didn’t translate to her mother what happened that day, but from that day forward, Padilla said she was determined to succeed. She changed counselors and applied to CSU Sacramento and Sonoma State University. She was accepted at both, eventually choosing CSU because of its diversity.

The counselor’s words also inspired Padilla to become an advocate for students and a counselor who did things differently.

“It’s important not to diminish the dreams of your students,” she said.

As a college freshman, however, Padilla found herself feeling overwhelmed.

“I wasn’t prepared academically, and I wasn’t prepared for how to develop a schedule, handle the workload or manage my time,” she said.

Fortunately, two programs helped her through the college experience — the Educational Opportunity Program and the College Assistance Management Program.

“If it wasn’t for these two programs and my amazing counselor, Rosana Chavez, I would’ve been lost,” she said.

Padilla graduated in 2011 with a degree in ethnic studies, then returned to earn a master’s degree in career counseling in 2015.

10,000 degrees, SaN RAFAEL

Executive Director: Kim Mazzuca

2015 revenue: $7,627,694

Contact: 415-459-4240, 10000degrees.org

___

See all Sonoma Gives stories here.

Her sister, Jocelin, got involved with 10,000 Degrees while she was in high school, turning to the organization for help preparing herself to attend college. That’s how Padilla found her way into the organization when a job opened up.

As a college adviser, Padilla now works with a team to help nearly 70 students at Elsie Allen, Piner and Healdsburg high schools.

They meet weekly with seniors to make sure they’re meeting deadlines and working on college applications, and offer help with financial aid applications.

Since that defining moment in the counselor’s office, Padilla said her commitment to helping students hasn’t wavered.

“My role is to allow them to follow their dreams, whatever they might be. I always tell them they will come across many opportunities when they’re in college, and I encourage them to take those opportunities, whether they’re interested or not.” That’s the only way they will find out what moves them.

“There is no better college adviser than someone who has lived the story of our students,” said 10,000 Degree’s President Kim Mazzuca. “To have a near-peer mentor is what moves our students to believe in themselves.”