This month, Tatiana, or “Tati,” Huezo begins her sophomore year at the University of California, San Diego. In 2007, she graduated from San Anselmo’s Sir Francis Drake High School with honors and received grants and scholarships that enabled her to continue her education. “The Marin Education Fund made it all possible; they are absolutely the greatest,” she says. “I’m the first one in my extended family to even think about going to college,” she adds with a bright smile. UCSD has an undergraduate enrollment of 27,000; Huezo is majoring in biochemistry and hopes to go into medicine.
Tatiana’s parents, Pedro, a self-employed landscaper, and Anna, who cleans homes, were born in San Salvador. Both proudly became U.S. citizens several years ago. The family, including Tati’s younger sister, lives in Fairfax. In her 19 years Tatiana has traveled to San Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala, as well as New York City and Atlanta, Georgia.
In June of this year Adam Joseph graduated from the Branson School in Ross; he’s now a freshman at the University of Virginia and leaning toward a major in biomedicine. “We’re still working on that one,” he admits with a sheepish grin. Adam was one of 2,000 students nationwide nominated by their high schools to be a Jefferson Scholar, an elite program providing 24 all-expense-paid four-year scholarships. “He’s the only one from the West Coast,” beams Sheri Joseph, his mom. The University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, has an enrollment of 12,000.
Adam’s dad, Don, is a biotech executive and both parents are university and law school graduates. They and Adam’s younger sister and older brother live in Tiburon. Over his 18 years Adam has traveled throughout the United States and in Italy, Germany, France, Laos and Cambodia.
Q Please tell us the path you pursued leading to college.
Tatiana Huezo: Even when I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. My grades at Drake High were a 3.9 and good enough to get into UCSD. I learned about the Marin Education Fund as a junior in high school, and by far the best decision I ever made was to go to their Summer Application Institute. I was one of 60 selected and we spent a week at Dominican University, living in dorms, touring college campuses, attending workshops and getting things like the SAT workbook, which was great for first-generation (American) students who cannot afford an SAT course. My parents worked hard so I could go to college, but they couldn’t help with all the applications that had to be filled out to get in. When it came to all that, the people at the Marin Education Fund were my parents.
Adam Joseph: After Bel Aire and Del Mar schools, it was a tough decision whether to go to Redwood High or Branson. My brother went to Redwood and had a great time; my mom went there too. I researched Branson and decided at the last minute I wanted something different, maybe a smaller school community. It was all my idea and my folks were supportive. Over the four years I played baseball and my grades were not perfect but good. After being nominated as a Jefferson Scholar, I wrote essays, had several interviews, then flew back to Virginia where the interviews were done by alumni panels and there was a lot of social interacting where you had to dress up. Not to toot my horn, but I think they were looking for good kids who’ll graduate and then go off and do cool things.
Q Did your high school in Marin prepare you well for college?
TH: At UCSD, at first, I was mad. I was unprepared for a whole different style of teaching. At high schools in Marin there is such a great opportunity for students to interact with their teachers, it makes it hard to fail. But college is different. You’re put in a university with 27,000 competitive students, who are all from the top of their classes, and you have to fight for yourself. No one is going to insist you attend classes; no one takes attendance; you’re on your own. You have to take your education into your own hands. If anything, in Marin, I had such great teachers that maybe they spoiled me.
AJ: Branson did a great job of preparing us for university work. They taught me to be academically independent. My first two years, teachers always asked for students to come in and talk. My last two years were different: by then I was expected to act on my own. Teachers were always available, but if I wanted a conference, it was up to me to initiate it. In other words, I controlled how I did academically. So at University of Virginia, I am ready to seek out my professors, not expect them to come to me. In addition, at Virginia, there are orientation seminars—but as many have attended each one as are enrolled at Branson, about 320 kids.
Q What do you see as America’s biggest challenges?
TH: We really need universal health care. Right now our health care is really expensive and it isn’t taking care of people who need to be taken care of. For too long we’ve neglected health care while focusing on other problems. Sure, it’s a hot topic and debated now, but nothing ever seems to happen. I really hope that by the time I’m leaving med school, I can be 100 percent excited about entering a field of medicine that is really ready to serve people. I really hope that happens. Another thing that concerns me is our social construction, including race and class and gender; I think racism is still with us. Also, the distribution of wealth in America is ridiculous. They say that the wealthiest 2 percent of the people control 90 percent of the wealth. That doesn’t seem right.
AJ: America is transitioning between two time periods. We’re realizing our lifestyles and political structures aren’t working. Something has to change and everyone’s trying to figure out what that change will be, what the new forms of energy will be. From an environmental standpoint we’re motivated in two ways: first, by the damage we’re doing to the planet and, second, by the fact that we’re running out of resources. We need to find new sources of energy. In the Bay Area, this is easy to see—a Prius on the freeway, solar panels on the roof—and Marin, because it’s affluent, is like a microcosm of what’s to come. However, it’s easier to lead the charge when you’re able to. But other parts of America are also becoming less reactionary and more proactive. I don’t think they’re insensitive to what is happening; it will just take time.
Q Who inspires you? Gives you hope?
TH: My mom and dad. They worked too hard for me to ever give up. I owe it to them and myself to finish what I’ve started. I want people to look at me and say, “She made a difference.”
AJ: That at both Branson and Virginia, there are all these teachers and staff dedicated to making our lives, my life, successful. In addition, I look up to my parents—they’ve been so proactive.