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College Graduate Inspires Others To Achieve
The child of a Hispanic migrant worker who now is a Sacramento State University graduate and has a government job helping low-income students get into college, Riverbank High 2001 graduate Marcelina Fernandez has been hitting the news quite a lot recently.

Open the December issue of People magazine and you will find this 24-year-old featured as one of three Women of Inspiration.

If you watch TV Channel 10, you may have seen and heard her interviewed in a Nov. 22 program. The program also ran on Univision Channel 19 for Spanish speakers.

She's just returned from a visit to New York to pick up an award given by the Maybelline cosmetics company for her essay encouraging high schoolers to pursue higher education. The award included a $10,000 grant for the program she promotes.

"I come from a migrant family," said Fernandez. "My mom worked in the fields. As a little girl I did too, but only for one summer. I learned my lesson and decided to go to school and get an education."

Fernandez is an outreach worker for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a division of the U.S. Department of Education that helps low income students get into college. The agency also provides college freshmen with financial aid information, counseling and tutoring. Participants can even get a monthly stipend for housing, books and other expenses.

"I go around to high schools all over California," she said of her job. "I talk to students of low income families with few resources and try to motivate them to get a college education. Anything is possible, I tell them."

Born in Mexico, Fernandez came to the United States when she was five and her family settled in Riverbank.

"I grew up here. I went to school here all the way from first grade to high school," she said.

Aiming for college, she was admitted to Sacramento State through the CAMP program for which she now works in Sacramento.

College entrance was not easy for her. Although she achieved an A average in high school, she didn't take her college tests too seriously and had to take remedial math and English as a college freshman.

Fernandez really does believe in education.

Already holding a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, she is due to obtain her master's degree in school counseling in a few weeks time. Beyond that, she wants to pursue a doctorate in education and start a non-profit organization to award scholarships to students who deserve a college education.