Back to the books: Bay Federal Credit Union selects Cabrillo College’s Coleman Garner for scholarship
For Coleman Garner, finding himself unexpectedly unemployed in the pandemic has proven to be a blessing in disguise.
The 29-year-old Westside resident graduated with a degree in marine biology from the University of Oregon in 2015, but has since worked in customer service. He no longer learned new things. He didn’t challenge himself. In his own words, he had become stagnant. “I was considering [going back to school] before, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit and I lost both my jobs that I had time to seriously consider applying and taking the courses I needed to get into college. nursing school,” Garner said.
At first it looked like he couldn’t get into the Cabrillo College Nursing Program, which uses an admission lottery. The acceptances came out in November 2021, and Garner’s name was not among them.
He was an alternate, which meant others in the popular program would have to drop out for him to get a spot. New Years came and went, then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then Valentine’s Day.
I chose nursing because I wanted to help people in a more meaningful and fulfilling way, and I thought healthcare would be a way to do that.
— Coleman Garner, nursing student at Cabrillo College
Finally, he learned that he had been accepted. He was delighted.
“I chose nursing because I wanted to help people in a more meaningful and fulfilling way, and I thought healthcare would be a way to do that. Every interaction I’ve had with the nurses has always been very positive. I like – just – the friendliness and the way they try to connect and relate to you, but also to be professional and help you with your illness. I think doing that for people would feel really good.
Then came even more good news: Garner was selected for a $1,500 scholarship from the Bay Federal Credit Union. Bay Federal is a non-profit financial cooperative whose mission is to make a real difference in the financial lives of its members and the community. Garner had been a member since attending Santa Cruz High School, where he graduated in 2011.
Aptos resident Carmen Sauceda (UC Santa Cruz) and Salinas resident Juan Padilla (UCLA) also received scholarships. At the same event, Micaela DiPiero (University of Arizona) and Albert Vizcarra (Cabrillo) were named winners of the Bay Federal Mac McCormac Employee Scholarship. “I think it’s great that Bay Federal is providing these opportunities to its community,” Sauceda said. She has student loans, lives at home and works part time. “I also have two younger siblings who are going to college at some point, and I don’t want to put it all on my dad.”
Carrie Birkhofer, president and CEO of Bay Federal, announced Garner’s selection at the credit union’s annual meeting in late March.
“I am extremely happy to honor these hard-working students. I hope that each of them will succeed in their studies and continue to make a real difference in our world.
— Carrie Birkhofer, President and CEO of Bay Federal Credit Union
Since 2008, Bay Federal has awarded 75 scholarships to local students. Garner says he feels grateful to be one of them. The scholarship money will help alleviate some of the financial stress of being a full-time student in the area. He recently moved back in with his parents to cut expenses so he can fully immerse himself in the nursing program, starting in August. Now free from the student loan debt he incurred while earning his first degree, he plans to apply for more scholarships and grants for his second go-around.
He credits Cabrillo College Office of Financial Aid and Awards informing him of the Bay Federal Scholarship Program and encouraging others to inquire with the department. “Don’t be afraid to call and ask,” he says. “They really want to help the students. Take your time when applying and be honest.
For the Bay Federal scholarship program, the next application window will open in late fall. All members of credit unions, whether attending college, trade school or technical school, are encouraged to apply.
About Bay Federal Credit Union
The Bay Federal Credit Union was formed when local school teachers pooled their money to create a credit union. This investment has grown through an incredible journey of involvement (evolution) in the region’s largest local financial institution, with over $1.5 billion in assets.
Bay Federal provides full-service financial products and solutions to Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. Whether a community member is looking to buy a home, buy a car, save money, or access the latest banking technology, our friendly, local employees are here to help.