Scholarship Winner Jonathan Alpizar a GCC Success Story

For GCC golf scholarship winner Jonathan Alpizar, life took an unexpected turn in middle school. As a fifth grader, Alpizar experienced the growth and changes normal for kids his age. With few friends and many responsibilities as the oldest of four sons in an immigrant family, he felt frustrated much of the time. “I didn’t know what to do with a lot of those feelings, but in middle school I started winning every race in P.E. and the running seemed to help a lot,” he says.

He kept running, and soon was setting and breaking local records in track and field. While a junior at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Alpizar ran a mile in just over four minutes, edging the closest competitor by 20 seconds in the CIF finals. With his success in athletics came a huge improvement in his academic performance, along with the motivation to attend college.

“My parents and I came to the U.S. from Mexico City when I was two years old,” says Alpizar. “I learned English then, and went to school for a year or so until my father decided to move back to Mexico when I was about six.” While the family was living out of the country, Alpizar was torn between feeling American and assimilating into life in his native land. “When we came back again, I was nine and had trouble fitting in—even my English wasn’t as good as it had been.”

“My parents have always struggled financially, and sometimes we kids felt the stress, too,” he says. “My mom works at a bakery full-time and my father works construction, but in the last few years things have been slow so there has been more tension in the house.” To help out, he found summer jobs. “I worked for a while at a retail store, but didn’t like it, so then I helped my dad with some construction work when I was 16 even though I really didn’t think I’d like that either.”

It turned out that he enjoyed it, and for a reason that surprised him. “I found the engineering part of construction really interesting. I’ve always preferred math to language, and this was a way to put math to practical use and earn a living,” he says.

Alpizar enrolled at Glendale College after graduation from Burroughs, and his athletic success continued. He was a member of the 2009 cross-country team that finished third in the state and is captain of the track team this year. In steeplechase, he was fourth by less than a second among all community colleges in California in 2009.

According to Eddie Lopez, GCC cross-country/track and field coach, Alpizar is one of the great success stories of the college. “In my 20 years of coaching, Jonathan stands out. Despite his difficult financial circumstances, he has worked hard to become a tremendous student-athlete. His own growth in that area has developed to the point that he is helping his teammates and school-aged children with training. He’s also working community events like elementary school jog-a-thons.”

With a 3.5 GPA, Alpizar is set to transfer to a four-year university this fall with a major in civil engineering. “I’ve been accepted at three schools—Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State San Marcos and Vanguard University, a private Christian school. I’ll be attending one of them on an athletic scholarship so I’ll still be competing in both cross-country and track and field,” he says.

The $500 scholarship from the Glendale College Foundation reflects the support of the sponsors of the annual Golf Classic for a deserving student athlete. “When I was told about the scholarship, I was shocked,” he says. “I haven’t received any aid or grants before, and I’m very honored by this. It will definitely help a lot.”

Looking forward, Aplizar has mixed feelings. “I told my parents that I’ll be leaving for a couple of years to attend a university, and they were proud but sad. And my youngest brother, only eight years old, started crying. So I’m having different emotions but still very excited.”

Looking back, he sees clearly that his athletic ability has always led him in the right direction. “I started running to get away from my feelings and frustrations,” he says, “and now I’m running toward something important that will give me and my family a better life.”
Last updated: 5/24/2010 11:31:04 AM