Nearly 70 Hispanic students were encouraged Wednesday to unlock their potential and give something back to the community during the keynote address for this year’s Summer Bridge Program at Mt. San Jacinto College.
The four-day event, which exposes underprivileged students to careers in science, technology, math and engineering, was held this year on the college’s Menifee Valley Campus.
In addition to participating in various hands-on experiments, students also get to take field trips to places such as the Entomology Museum and Botanical Gardens at UCR.
The program is supported through a $1.9-million grant aimed at increasing participation, graduation and transfer rates of Hispanic and or low-income students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Appearing as keynote speaker Wednesday was Dr. Raul Ruiz, M.D., who grew up in the Coachella Valley and earned college degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Thought to be the first Hispanic to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard, Ruiz currently works as an emergency physician at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and focuses on developing policy to improve public health and healthcare access for vulnerable populations in the Coachella Valley.
Ruiz stressed three themes Wednesday — excellence, service and potential.
“When I talk about excellence I mean excellence through personal responsibility,” he said. “Excellence depends on you. Excellence is going beyond expectations.”
Student participant Skye Ocegueda, 21, of Temecula, said afterward that she found the speech very motivating.
“It was important that he said we should see obstacles not so much as obstacles, but more like challenges, and to be really motivated — to take it upon ourselves to have responsibility and to serve our community,” she said.
Murrieta resident Jonathan Padilla, 21, said he got involved in Summer Bridge Program through one of its mentors.
Padilla characterized Ruiz’ speech as inspiring and filled with positive life lessons.
“What I took away (from the speech) is that we have a social responsibility to the community…and how we should give back to it,” he said.
Mt. San Jacinto College serves students from Banning to Temecula and from Idyllwild to Lake Elsinore with campuses in San Jacinto and Menifee.
Reach Steve Fetbrandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 951-764-8449.