Rene and Veronica Ramirez met in the marching band while entering their freshman year at Fresno State, and found out they had a lot in common. Both first-generation college students, both from small Central Valley towns and both with dreams to become doctors and give back to their communities. The couple graduated from Drexel Medical School and returned to the valley to practice medicine.

rene“The Health Careers Opportunity Program is the ideal peer mentoring network that has helped so many of us first-generation students make it into health careers. It was a place that felt like home, everyone could relate to each other and there was no judgment if you were struggling in academics. From mentoring, tutoring, advising, field trips and networking, there is no other program like it.”

Dr. Rene Ramirez
: Kerman
Degree: Molecular and cellular biology (2003)
Current job: Physician, for the UCSF Fresno Emergency Medicine Program at Community Regional Medical Center


veronica“Coming from a small town and then entering college with a major and career goal that is extremely competitive was a tremendous challenge. My family was supportive 110 percent, but what they could tell me to guide me on how to become a doctor was limited. One significant challenge was I relied on financial aid to attend school. I found guidance through the Health Careers Opportunity Program at Fresno State.”

Dr. Veronica Araujo Ramirez
: Dinuba
Degree: Molecular and cellular biology (2003)
Current job: Physician for Community Medical Providers and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics


edson“To young people who are facing obstacles, I urge you to set goals for yourself. Once you set those goals, push yourself to achieve them and don’t let anyone or anything sidetrack you. There will always be bad times, but it’s how a person responds to those bad times that will set them apart. Talk to other successful people and ask a lot of questions and listen carefully.”

Edson Barrantes
: Dos Palos
Degree: Mass communication and journalism-advertising (2007)
Current job: Local sales manager, CBS47


misty“I was a child growing up in poverty from a family where girls didn’t go to college or excel in school. I had a lot of odds stacked against me. I have to say, there were always people around me who cared and took special interest in making sure I was successful. Not all students got the same attention I did. I was lucky. This is why I went into education. I want to make sure no child gets left out.”

Misty Her
: Fresno
Degree: Liberal studies (1998), Master’s in education/administration (2003)
Current job: Instructional superintendent for Fresno Unified School District


Felipe Barrientos came to the United States from Chile with his family at 6 years old. He grew up thinking college wasn’t an option, and when he earned acceptance into Fresno State, his parents’ first question was, “How are you going to pay for it?” Barrientos got scholarships and loans and got creative — giving blood in exchange for a sandwich to spread over lunch and dinner and once camping outside a store to purchase a popular new video game system that he then sold on eBay for more than twice the money.

felipe“Fresno State is the place where I changed my life around. Now it’s about changing the family tree. My nephew is the next step. When he’s in our home, college is the expectation. For me, it wasn’t even a possibility — or so I thought.”


Felipe Barrientos
: Valdivia, Chile
Degree: Agricultural education-animal science (2008)
Current job: Agricultural education teacher at Parlier High School


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