Easing the burden

Alumni Association Scholarship helps determined math/econ major stay in school

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Bryan Monjes

Bryan Monjes (Cowell '16, mathematics and economics) (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch slammed into Honduras. The Category 5 storm killed thousands of people, destroyed villages, and caused President Carlos Roberto Flores to declare that the storm had obliterated 50 years of progress.

For a young seamstress named Consuelo, the storm meant an end to her livelihood. The single mother fled to the United States, where she earned her AA degree while working and raising her son. Today, she is a social worker, is remarried, and is living a good life.

"My mom is definitely inspiring to me," said her son, Bryan Monjes, a math and economics major at Cowell College. She has motivated him to work hard to achieve his goals, he said.

Monjes's high school volleyball coach, Matt Schutz, remembered the teen as someone determined to succeed and do the right thing.

"When we would do conditioning runs he was always the first one to finish, and he was always the last guy to leave the weight room," Schutz said.

That determination continued at UCSC, where Monjes, who plans to graduate in 2016 and pursue a career in financial planning, not only carried a full load of classes but also worked 30 hours a week at a sandwich shop and coached junior varsity volleyball at San Lorenzo Valley High School.

The jobs were a necessity, Monjes said, after an injury forced his mother to go on disability for a time. Even though his father works as a landscaper, tuition costs were almost more than the family could handle.

"It was kind of a Catch-22," said the 18-year-old. "If I don't work, I can't go to school, but work sometimes meant I missed classes."

A $1,500 Alumni Association scholarship that brought a matching $1,500 award eased some of the burden.

"The scholarship saved me," said Monjes, who hopes to rearrange some of his work schedule to allow him more time for study this year. "It kept my education going."

UCSC Alumni Association memberships have helped build the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, which has distributed almost $1.5 million in scholarship aid to more than 600 UCSC students since 1991.

To join, visit alumni.ucsc.edu.