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April 6, 2022

Samvathna Em, who goes by Sam, was attending San Diego College of Continuing Education when he heard about the San Diego Gateway to College and Career program. This program supports immigrants, refugees and English language learners in finding pathways to self-sufficiency and personal empowerment. We asked Sam about his goals, experience with the program and dream job. 

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I was new in this country, I was learning the language and wanted to assimilate to the culture and systems. I heard the Gateway program would help me attend a two-year college successfully and prepare me to transfer to a four-year program, which I want to do. Some of my other goals are to do well in college, feel engaged and understand the culture. I want to make America feel like home.  

I arrived here a few years ago and everything was unfamiliar. The Gateway program was great because I was able to learn new things, they provided workshops virtually and in-person, and they were really interesting. I liked the one on cognitive development and mental health best. There were lots of opportunities to apply for scholarships and internships and the staff would help us to apply and achieve our goals. 

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The internships were great because I got to put what I was learning into practice. They were tremendous for learning and getting experience outside of class. I switched majors from engineering to computer science and I love it. I’m obsessed with tech and anything virtual. My dream job would be working as a software developer.  

This program is also great because they encourage you and there are incentives to do well in school. At the end of every semester, you can turn in your grades and get money which is a big incentive.  

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine life without this program and the staff. It felt like being part of a family, they are my guardian angels. You can discuss your challenges and they’ll give you advice. They never gave up helping me and my sister meet our goals and they helped clarify our residency status so we could pay for in-state tuition.  

If someone was just coming to America, I would say this is your second home—you can have two. Always ask for help when needed and work hard towards your goals. 

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