Thriving with support

Donors help students learn and grow

By Ashley Han | November 30, 2022

Behind every student at UC Davis is an untold story of personal growth—and for many, struggle. This is where donors make the difference by funding scholarships and other student success programs offered through the Division of Student Affairs.

The Division of Student Affairs assists all students and members of the campus community in their academic, social, cultural, personal and civic development. More than 20 programs, services and facilities bolster community and belonging, health and wellness, career preparation and more.

In fiscal year 2021-22, more than 1,800 donors gave $4.05 million to the division to help Aggies on their journeys to success—an immense impact, especially for the 67 percent who qualify for financial aid and 38 percent who are first-generation college students.

From working in the fields to growing up in foster care, three students found relief with donor support to help them realize their dreams.

Fostering an environment for growth

When Aman Kaur ’22 was six years old, her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s, were sent back to India. Fortunately, extended family was able to provide foster care for her in Delano, California.

Shortly after entering UC Davis as a first-generation college student, Kaur found out she qualified for the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP), which provides services and support for students with lived experiences in foster care.

“I knew education would be the best way to sustain myself in the future,”Kaur said about pursuing her managerial economics degree at UC Davis. “I’m grateful for the Guardian Scholars Program for providing scholarships and a sense of belonging.”

Through GSP, Kaur received support that covered the cost of her textbooks and helped her furnish her first college apartment.

“UC Davis has so many resources. Once you get connected to the right people and you have the funding, life becomes a lot easier,” Kaur said. GSP students, on average, achieve academic success with a 3.08 GPA, according to the program’s 2019-2020 impact report.

Kaur also conducted research through UC LEADS (Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees), a philanthropically supported two-year program for disadvantaged undergraduates majoring in science, mathematics or engineering.

“One of my favorite research projects was analyzing the effectiveness of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program on educational outcomes,” Kaur said. “The hard and soft skills I gained through my degree will guide me towards my future career.”

Kaur worked multiple on-campus jobs and was an executive leader in her sorority, Chi Omega. She graduated in June and is now a marketing intern at Oracle. She’s working on bringing her family back to the U.S. so they can all live together again.

Aman Kaur leans against the red brick UC Davis sign.
Aman Kaur leans against the red brick UC Davis sign.

From manual harvesting to engineering

Growing up in the Salinas Valley and working in the fields since the age of 14, Jesus Trujillo ’23 knows manual field labor. At UC Davis, he is taking a new approach to it by studying mechanical engineering and precision agriculture.

“In my experience, money makes decisions for you,” said Trujillo, who is planning a career in automated harvesting. “UC Davis was a clear choice because of the financial aid and scholarship I received, and it’s one of the best ag schools.”

As a first-generation college student, Trujillo found navigating higher education a challenge. Although he always had his parents’ support, he said he could not seek academic advice from his father, a tractor driver, or his mother, who works on a field weeding crew. Instead, he was able to rely on connections he made at UC Davis for support.

Trujillo began working as a lead student farmer in fall 2021 at the donor-supported UC Davis Student Farm. Trujillo gained leadership skills by guiding groups of students to complete tasks on the 23-acre farm.

“The farm allows students to grow and donate produce to centers on campus while learning about food security and food justice,” Trujillo said. “To continue this great work, we’re always in need for more support. Donors can help improve our equipment and supplies.”

Trujillo said the Student Farm’s welcoming environment gave him a feeling of community. He ended the academic year on a high note, making the College of Engineering’s Dean's Honors List in the spring.

“Working with great people on the Student Farm gave me the confidence to continue working on my degree and career,” Trujillo said. “I want to make the most of my time here and I’m looking forward to next year.”

Jesus Trujillo on his family's crop field.
Jesus Trujillo at the UC Davis Student Farm.

A vital foundation for long-term success

Nate Walker ’22 grew up in the midst of nature and animals in his small hometown near Dallas. He aspired to study veterinary science at UC Davis and discovered a unique donor-funded program that would help him achieve his goals.

The Linda Frances Alexander Scholars Program (LFA) provides academic, social and cultural enrichment to students of the African Diaspora. A program within the Center for African Diaspora Student Success (CADSS), LFA also provides academic advising and resources for goal-setting and leadership.

“LFA was one of the best programs I experienced at UC Davis because it gave me the jumpstart I needed to have a strong support base,” Walker said. “The people I’ve met through the program have become some of my closest friends in college.”

Historically, African American graduation rates have been lower than those for all undergraduates at UC Davis, prompting the Division of Student Affairs to launch the African American Initiative and open CADSS in 2015—one of the division’s 12 centers that support community development.

Walker said he benefited from the LFA program so much that he became a student assistant at CADSS to help others.

“CADSS was like a second home for me,” Walker said. “If you needed to recharge, you could go there and find people in your community who encourage you to succeed.”

As a student studying biological sciences, he was able to observe and research pikas in the Sierra Nevada and intern at the Aggie Animal Clinic in Dixon.

Now a graduate, Walker is seeking field research opportunities and internships before deciding on his next steps. He said his experiences at UC Davis have prepared him for a wide breadth of career paths.

“I’m glad I ended up where I am now because I have more opportunities to dive into my interests and help animals in some way.”

Nate Walker smiling in his graduation clothes.
Nate Walker smiles while wearing a Western hat and graduation stole.