Santa Barbara City College’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program reached a milestone this spring surpassing the 100-student mark for members who successfully completed their studies at SBCC and will or have transferred to four-year colleges or universities.
“This year, we have 22 transfers who are getting ready to move on,” said SBCC MESA Director/Coordinator Virginia Estrella, who has overseen the SBCC program since it was established at the college eight years ago. “This group will be added to our ongoing list of 82 MESA transfers, of whom 27 have already received bachelor’s degrees.” Since it began at SBCC, MESA has served 283 students enrolled in the specialty program.
The MESA Community College Program, which is a partnership with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and MESA statewide at the University of California Office of the President, supports students in successfully transferring to four-year universities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. This assistance is especially crucial to students who come from low-performing high schools, are economically disadvantaged, and are often the first in their family to attend college. Major program components include self-directed student study groups clustered at designated centers, special orientation courses, academic advising/counseling, and assistance in the transfer process.
MESA changed my life,” said Juan Zepeda, who currently works as a software engineer at Raytheon in Goleta. “It helped me focus on my studies and gave me the assurance and confidence that I could tackle a STEM major.”
One of the major components of the program is the self-directed student study groups who congregate at the MESA center. “As a STEM major, you’re in the books 100% of the time. The other MESA students truly become your family. After pulling countless ‘all-nighters,’ I’ve created life-long relationships I still have to this day.”
SBCC student Cristina Soto, who will graduate this spring, echoed this sentiment. “Two years ago, I made the decision to quit my job and concentrate on my studies. The same day I turned in my resignation, I came to SBCC and, upon the advice of my sister, went straight to the MESA Center.” She added, “MESA really helped me develop my academic skills and a sense of family and support.”
The bonds that are formed transcend just students’ time at SBCC. As Juan tells it, “MESA creates a chain where older students – mentors - help you and then you become the mentor to the students who come up behind you.”
When Juan graduated from SBCC and transferred to California State University Northridge (CSUN), one of the keys to his success was another SBCC MESA student who transferred there the previous year. “He was a friend who showed me around and gave me advice on such things as the best places to study and which professors to avoid. Three of us from MESA graduated at the same time and we roomed together at CSUN. We helped each other.”
Cristina, who will transfer to UCSB in the fall and major in mathematical sciences, said she also has a MESA friend already there who will help her with assimilation.
Other MESA Program features included emphasis on career and professional development, faculty sponsors/mentors, links with affiliated groups, and industry partnerships. The local chapter of the Society for Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) has helped mentor a student chapter — SHPE Ingenium —with professional members providing student scholarships, field trips to such businesses as Raytheon, Moog and Lockheed Martin Santa Barbara Focalplane and even friendly soccer competition between the professionals and students. Industry partners such as Yardi, Medtronics, Verizon, and Veneco also have made donations to support the MESA program.
For both Juan and Cristina, giving back to newer MESA students is a natural progression of their education and future commitment. “Others did it for me,” said Cristina. “Now it’s my turn.”


Joan C. Galvan
Public Information Officer
Santa Barbara City College
(805) 730-4107

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