First-generation stories: Headed to UCLA to continue cancer research

Our podcast catches up with new grad Hector Navarro, a first-generation college student who's off to big things

Podcast by J.D. Hillard

You may remember student Hector Navarro. We wrote about him and his inspiring story in 2015. We caught up again with Hector as he graduated from Cowell College this month.

When he was younger, Hector Navarro didn’t expect much when thinking about his future.

His dad worked on the grounds of Bethany University in Scotts Valley, then headed off to a second job doing small construction projects and home repairs.

Navarro thought he’d never met a man who worked harder than his father. He’d think how proud he was of the way his dad had become a citizen and left the strawberry fields for a job that allowed his wife to raise their family of six — a simple but good life.

“I grew up thinking, ‘I come from humble roots so my life could quite possibly end up the same way,’” he says.

Then, Navarro found science.

He enrolled at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in molecular, cell and developmental biology, and he worked in a genetics lab on campus with the goal of becoming a cancer researcher some day.

He's now one step closer to that goal—he's graduated from UC Santa Cruz is off to UCLA for his doctoral degree.

Listen to our podcast about his experiences, the inspiration he drew from his parents, and his words of advice for other first-generation college students.