Mother tackles book to teach others
DANA M. NICHOLS
Special To Vida En El Valle
(Published Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 10:53AM)
TRACY -- Roxanne Ocampo knew she couldn't afford to pay her childrens' way through top colleges. So she figured out how to coach them to get there on scholarships.
The result: Her daughter Gabriela Herrera has a full ride to Harvard and son Carlos Ocampo has a generous financial aid package at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Many middle- and upper-class families can identify with what Ocampo, her husband Arturo Ocampo, and her children did at their home in Tracy: long hours of study, strategic focus on extracurricular activites such as music, and mastering the arcane bureaucracy of college admissions and scholarships.
It's what happened along the way that makes Ocampo different: She decided to share what she knows with everyone, especially fellow Latinos who may be unfamiliar with the byzantine system that determines who gets to join America's Ivy League ruling elite.
It began when a few friends asked for help with their own college and scholarship applications.
"Initialy they just started coming to the house," Ocampo said.
Now, Ocampo is spending her nights and weekends travelling Northern California, holding worships and sharing her knowledge with students and parents. And she just authored a book about these methods, called 'The Flight of the Quetzal Mama,' that's available on Amazon.
The title is a response to 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,' a 2011 book in which Asian American mother Amy Chua describes the methods she used to guide her children into an elite education track.
'Quetzal Mama' is Ocampo's take on the same theme, although with a disctinctively Latino cultural flavor that puts more emphasis on achiving larger community goals and less on individual competition.
The quetzal in the title is a rare bird found in mountain jungles in México and Central América.
"This is fitting for the students I work with," Ocampo said. "They are beautiful but don't know how to soar. Their wings are clipped."
Ocampo's book covers a wide range of topics, including early-age child rearing methods. She discusses, for example, how to neutralize the soul-sapping negative messages transmitted to children by television programming. And she discusses the particular ways Latinos are likely to be impacted by media images and story lines.
Ocampo also confronts the Latino cultural reluctance to brag. Parents will help their children in many ways if they draw attention to achievements, Ocampo said. Ocampo, for example, put out press releases and photos to local newspapers when her children won athletic contests.
But it will be the chapters on college admissions, resume building, letter writing, interviewing and scholarships that will be of greatest interest to those nearing the end of high school.
And though Ocampo herself comes from a middle class background in which her parents and all her siblings attended college, she says the lessons she offers are still useful to those new to the college game.
And those who have tried her methods say that they work.
Alexis Buz, for example, is a 2011 graduate of Merrill West High School in Tracy. He is now studying at San Joaquín Delta College and is the first in his family to attend college.
Buz said thanks to techniques Ocampo taught him, he has accumulated almost $9,000 in scholarships.
Buz is preparing to transfer to a state university -- possibly UC Berkeley -- to study engineering. He's confident he can get in because he already managed to get accepted to other prime engineering schools such as Cal Poly Pomona. He didn't go to Pomona immediately because of the expense.
Buz recommends Ocampo's methods to other Latinos.
"She knew things to mention, things not to mention," Buz said of Ocampo's advice on admission essays and interviews. "It is extremely pivotal, especially for highschoolers that are going into the junior year," Buz said of Ocampo's methods.