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Brazilian Student Finds Pathway to a Doctorate Degree in San Diego

March 1, 2020

Photo of Gabriel SouzaThis article was originally posted by the San Diego Community College District News Room on December 19, 2019.

Twenty-two-year-old Gabriel Souza left Curitiba, Brazil just over one year ago. Living in San Diego he expected to learn a new language and adjust to new customs but was surprised with a helping hand and a college scholarship through San Diego Gateway to College and Career (SDG2CC).

Souza has his sights set on a doctoral degree, hoping to become a Clinical Psychologist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the state that employs the most clinical, counseling and school psychologists.

He pursues his dream for his family back home. “My role models are my grandparents in Brazil. They were not able to pursue their education, even though they work really hard to have a good life.”

Although he already completed a high school diploma and professional certificate in Human Resources in Brazil, Souza had to begin his education again in the United States to develop as a top competitor for a state university. He completed the High School Diploma/Equivalency program and studied English as A Second Language at San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE). There he was selected to be a part of SDG2CC.

With a goal of helping students succeed after high school, SDCE’s San Diego Gateway to College and Career for Opportunity Youth is one of the only programs of its kind in San Diego and one of few nationwide that provides paid internships, career workshops, employment assistance and motivational supports for young adults ages 18-24.

“The support students receive beyond the classroom is critical,” said SDCE President, Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D. “San Diego Gateway to College and Career’s unique programming helps young adults at-risk with nonacademic needs such as individualized case management and access to barrier supports that cover materials, textbooks and transportation.” SDG2CC supports two of SDCE’s Seven Pillars: Employment Security and Intellectual and Emotional Security.

Through SDG2CC, Souza secured an administrative internship for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. Following this role, he now interns with San Diego Youth Services, a nonprofit that provides housing and mental health services for the city’s most vulnerable populations including LGBTQ and homeless teens.

“Students who can find a job that exists at the intersection of what they are passionate about and one that has both immediate and long-term success in the labor market, that’s the goal,” said President Turner Cortez, Ph.D. “SDCE’s free career training programs and classes are specifically designed to mobilize adult students like Gabriel to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility.”

More than monetary value, the internship experience is helping Souza’s future. “This work is so important. I’m learning how to help youth during a crisis,” he said. “I want to be a psychologist to have a better understanding of myself and others, and with this knowledge I will continue to help people who seek mental health support.”

San Diego Gateway to College and Career students can earn up to $2,000 during a three-month internship while completing studies at SDCE.

Souza will transition to San Diego City College with a scholarship this spring to advance his career with a degree in psychology.

Souza and his SDG2CC classmates, Christopher Gonzalez and Trisha Alcantara were each awarded a Dwight Brydie Scholarship for $1,000 through the California Workforce Association, only young adults enrolled in youth employment programs are eligible to apply. All three students will attend the Youth@Work 2020 Conference in San Jose on January 14, 2020 to accept their award.

“I did not expect any of this, so it was a big surprise. It would not have happened if Gateway were not helping me,” he said. “I’m really excited to go to college to start getting closer to my doctorate.”

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