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  President’s Awards
The $2,000 President’s Award is presented annually to graduating students who have overcome adversity and shown great perseverance in seeking an education at De Anza.
Eric Esparza
Eric Esparza is used
to working hard and looking out for others. He’ll be doing both as he pursues his dream
of becoming a lawyer, after transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, this fall.
“My dad always told me:
Do something you’re passionate about,” said Eric, 19.
A first-generation college student and a son of Mexican immigrants, Eric had been accepted by
the University of California, Riverside, when he graduated from San José’s Del Mar High School. But then his brother was severely injured in a criminal assault. Eric opted to stay home and attend De Anza, so he could help care for his brother and put less strain on their family finances.
Since they were boys, Eric and his brothers have helped their father with his landscaping business.
He didn’t stop working on lawns and gardens while he attended De Anza, where he majored in business administration. He also found inspiration in exploring his heritage by taking classes in Latinx and Chicanx history and art, which led him to join other students in revitalizing the MEChA club on campus.
After a bachelor’s degree and law school, Eric’s goal is to become a prosecutor and help people who, like his brother, have been harmed by others. He also wants to be a role model and apply his perspective, as a son of Latinx immigrants, to improving the justice system.
While grateful for his family and his heritage, Eric said he found a new sense of community at De Anza. Fellow students and instructors encouraged him to apply to Berkeley when he didn’t think he’d get in.
In his time at De Anza, Eric said he learned that “no matter how many obstacles stand in my way, I can still make it.”
Shelly Michael
When Shelly Michael first enrolled at De Anza, she planned to major in business. But she soon developed a passion for advocacy, activism and social justice.
Shelly, who is this year’s DASB
president, is graduating with
degrees in Political Science and
Liberal Arts. She’s transferring
to Columbia University – the next step on a path she hopes will lead to graduate school and a career in public service.
The 20-year-old is a first-generation college student who moved to the U.S. from Israel as a child. She graduated from Sunnyvale’s Fremont High School and was accepted by a four- year university, but tight finances led her to choose De Anza instead.
Her interest in civics was sparked by a first-quarter class taught by political science instructor Jim Nguyen. That led
to volunteering for SIREN, a Bay Area immigrant-rights group, and joining De Anza’s Public Policy School, which trains students to advocate on public issues. Along the way, she interned with Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Cupertino, and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, and made trips to Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
She also sought DASB office, running with her friend, Maya Burns, who was elected vice president. They worked on successful efforts to replace an outdated college mascot and raise the minimum wage for student employees on campus.
It wasn’t easy to balance college obligations with a part-time job and a long commute from Gilroy, where her family moved to buy a house they could afford. Shelly said she had to find her own way as a student, since her parents had no experience with college. Fortunately, she said, her instructors and other campus mentors helped along the way.
De Anza, she added, “is an incredible and diverse community” with “some of the most unique, smart and capable individuals you will ever meet in your life.”

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