Benito Rincon Ramirez just landed one of the biggest scholarships a student can receive from Phoenix College (PC).
The engineering student will go onto Arizona State University (ASU) with an award of $10,000. For Benito, the scholarship is a reward for years of overcoming challenges and reaching the goals he set for himself.
“One of the first challenges I encountered was not knowing what types of engineering existed,” he said. “This made it difficult to choose my engineering major in my first semester at PC. I also did not initially understand how the college system functioned. I was lost and had no idea what classes I needed to take. I ran into a problem in my first year that set me back academically. I made a mistake where I took two math classes that I had passed on my placement test because I did not know any better. I wasted both valuable time and money.”
In the Spring of 2019, his father had a stroke. At 19, he had to assume additional responsibilities to support his parents and younger siblings while attempting to perform well academically. As he assisted with his father's recovery, he became a role model for his younger siblings, helping them with schoolwork and personal issues.
Benito is the oldest sibling of three and a first-generation student. His father left school after the sixth grade and his mother dropped out of high school; both were forced to abandon their education to afford food and pay essential bills. Benito was the first in the family to obtain a high school diploma and will now lead his siblings and next generation to a better path.
“I had no financial assistance toward my college education. I struggled with buying books and a computer. Not having my own quiet place to study, as I share a room with two other brothers, has also been challenging. My house is small and I don’t have much personal space, which can be frustrating at times.
It is difficult to study at home because it is rarely quiet and is usually in motion. When learning transitioned online due to COVID, I found it difficult to understand lectures and experienced a loss of connection. It was difficult to meet up with my peers to study, which had a negative impact on my learning,” he said.
But with dedication and support, Benito was able to persevere through these obstacles – thanks in part to PC’s faculty. “I have had some amazing professors who have helped me complete the curriculum at Phoenix College. In addition, some professors like Professor Ernest Villicana and Dr. Eddie Ong have become my mentors in the engineering field. They are helping me make the best decisions to avoid more problems in the future.
The Phoenix College Honors Program's resources like honors advising, free printing, and computer access supported me academically. It was a great environment to be around with peers who were in a similar position. My peers and professors have helped me grow as a student and as an adult. My professors have encouraged me to apply for internships and research opportunities. I was always so afraid that I would not be chosen because I thought I was not good enough or qualified,” said Benito.
It was at PC that Benito completed his first internship called the NASA Ascend, which gave him a chance to work with other engineering students on an engineering project. Other intern offers are trickling in for the summer. Benito now feels more confident academically and in his chosen career field. “PC did something for me that the university level might not have been able to offer,” he said. “Having smaller class sizes where professors were able to focus on students individually was a great advantage. Working with the STEAM Club and the faculty advisor Robin Cotter gave me opportunities to do volunteer work where I recruited club members, participated in STEM outreach events, helped raise funds for the club and assisted in the creation of the Musical Bench.”
Benito is passionate about the Mars Perseverance Rover and how it was engineered. He wants to be a part of creating and designing new technologies and will transfer to ASU in the fall to pursue a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.
“This scholarship will allow me to live at ASU, to focus on my academics, and will give me greater access to educational resources,” Benito said. “I want to get involved in STEM-related clubs and outreach events at ASU. The scholarship will relieve my financial stress and allow me to focus on my studies to maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA at ASU. I want to become involved in research, conduct volunteer work, attend career fairs and internships in my field to build my resume. I was accepted to the Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program, in which I will join a research lab at ASU. Expanding my involvement and maintaining high academic standards will help me pursue a Master’s degree, increasing my career opportunities.
Attaining a college degree will allow me to support my parents financially and help my brothers afford college. By minimizing student debt, I will be able to give back to my family after graduation. By becoming a role model to the future generation, I hope to encourage those with similar circumstances to pursue STEM disciplines.”
The Diane H. Thomas Scholarship for Phoenix College Graduates provides transfer students with $10,000 to pursue a degree at a four-year college or university.