STEM Impacto program at Moorpark College helped student finish school


Rudy Garcia poses outside his home in Simi Valley, California. Photo credit: Andres Garcia

By Andres Garcia

Meet 43-year-old Rudolfo “Rudy” Garcia, former Stem Impacto student and current peer mentor at Moorpark College.

Garcia is currently in his second semester as a peer mentor for STEM Impacto, a Moorpark College program that aims to increase the number of Hispanic/Latino and Pell Grant eligible students in the STEM field.

Garcia attributes much of his success to STEM Impacto, in large part due to the program’s peer mentoring services. Now, Garcia is giving back to the program as a resource for students, many of whom are in similar positions as Garcia in the past.

“I tell my mentees, if you fail, it’s okay,” Garcia said. “I failed my first class.”

Garcia first attended Moorpark College in 1998, but dropped out shortly after when he got the opportunity to work as a computer engineer. Garcia continued this work up until 2020.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Garcia, like many employees across the United States, saw a cut in his hours. After having a conversation with his family about what he should do next, Garcia decided to go back to school and complete his degree.

While originally working towards computer network systems engineering at Moorpark College, Garcia saw a future for himself in cybersecurity and opted for that degree path instead.

Garcia explained that the transition back to school was a struggle near the beginning. Most of his classes were online, and Garcia found it difficult to partake in those classes as he did not have a laptop.

This hurdle made Garcia doubt his future at Moorpark College until STEM Impacto stepped in to help. In addition to offering encouragement and advice, the program’s faculty lent Garcia a laptop and a SIM card.

“I was secretly making excuses to not go back to school and educate myself, but yet they put a stop to that by stopping those excuses,” Garcia said.

STEM Impacto was first introduced to Moorpark College in October 2020 and will be available to students until the fall of 2025. The program offers a variety of resources and services for its students, including a financial incentive of $350 each semester, paid internships, academic tutors, specialized counselors and peer mentors.

Professor Ed Garcia, CNSE/Cyber Security Professor and STEM Impacto faculty member, commented on the work that STEM Impacto, and Moorpark College as a whole, do to guide and prepare their students.

“We are actually preparing these students to continue on to higher education,” Professor Garcia said. “Our college, does an exceptional job, I believe, in providing a lot of support services.”

Other students have found similar success with the program. Itzalen Lopez, a second-year student and vice president of the college’s Cyber Security Club, said that STEM Impacto offered her much-needed support.

“STEM Impacto is very helpful in the way that you have a faculty advisor that can guide you,” Lopez said. “It helps to clear the doubts.”

The STEM Impacto experience has motivated students of all ages and walks of life to reach their full potential, including now peer mentor, Rudy Garcia.

Garcia earned his associate degree in cybersecurity back in 2021. He said his path to graduation was far from easy as he was working a full-time job while at Moorpark College. Being the sole provider for a family of six only added to his stress, Garcia said.

However, these challenges made receiving his degree even more rewarding. Garcia reflected on his education journey through STEM Impacto and what it felt like to finally fulfill his academic ambitions.

“Here’s a 43-year-old man walking with a bunch of young students graduating, and I hear my kids in the background yelling ‘Go daddy, you did it,’ Garcia said. “That was the most rewarding part of the whole thing because I proved to my kids that it can be done even at my age.”