A few moments from his life stand out to Allan Hancock College student Victor DeAlba. He remembers visiting his older brother in jail and seeing his mother cry. He vividly recalls an administrator in middle school predicting he would follow the path of his older brothers and get into trouble. After years of hard work, dedication and support, the Lompoc native turned those memories into a story of triumph. Recently, the 22-year-old student was one of 28 community college students in the state named to the 2017 All-California Academic First Team by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“To be selected among the best of the best is mind blowing. It literally brought tears to my eyes when I found out,” said DeAlba. “It seems surreal to have come this far considering where I was and what other people expected from me.”
Grades, leadership and community service determine selection to the All-California teams. The selection was based on the scores nominees received from Phi Theta Kappa judges at the national level. Based on the scores, finalists received rankings and were placed on the All-California Academic first, second or third teams. The 85 students named All-California this year represent some of the best of the two million students enrolled in California’s 113 community colleges.
Currently, DeAlba is the vice president of external affairs with the college’s Associated Student Body Government (ASBG). He also serves as a student ambassador where he conducts campus tours and represents the college at community events. He was a founding member of the Students Organizing for Advocacy and Retention (SOAR) club that formed to improve the college culture and services provided at the Lompoc Valley Center. Last year, he served as president of the college’s Alpha Gamma Sigma (AGS) Honor Society.
“He has made lasting contributions to Allan Hancock College with his service,” said Kathy Headtke, co-advisor for the college’s Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society. “Victor’s collaborative efforts to start the Food Share Because We Care program at the Lompoc Valley Center has made an enormous difference to more than 500 LVC students and their families.”
Other than being selected to the All-California Academic Team, DeAlba said his proudest moment at Hancock was when he served as president of AGS.
“I never thought I would be a member of an honors society, let alone the president,” DeAlba said with a smile. “So many people doubted me before I came to Hancock and my grades were so poor before college. I remember having a 0.6 grade point average in high school. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished with all the support I have received at Hancock.”
The future wasn’t always so bright for DeAlba. His three older brothers were in and out of juvenile detention and jail. When he was in sixth grade, an administrator at his middle school called him into the office.
“He said he knew who I was and who my older brothers were,” DeAlba recalled. “He said I would end up like my brothers and I wasn’t going to make it. He said he was going to keep an eye on me.”
With no one believing in him at school, the administrator’s prediction became a reality. Because his parents worked such long hours to provide for their children, DeAlba often was on his own after school and started getting into trouble. It was not until high school when Manuela Vanegas, an outreach consultant at Lompoc High School, provided the support and encouragement in school he needed. He found similar guidance at Hancock.
“Victor’s story is so compelling because of the courage he has shown to follow the advice of his mentors to rise above his circumstances and make the world better, not worse,” said Headtke. “When Victor speaks, he does so with an authenticity and compassion that both resonates and encourages fellow students to try harder in college.”
The award is a fitting acknowledgement for a student who worked for three years consistently and tirelessly to better himself through academic achievement, leadership and community service.
“Victor is genuine and truly passionate about helping others and representing students,” said Stephanie Robb, coordinator of student activities at Hancock. “He is a true student advocate.”
The Community College League of California sponsors an awards ceremony where members of the All-California teams receive medallions of honor and a certificate. The ceremony will be in Sacramento on March 23. During the ceremony, a handful of students will be named to the Phi Theta Kappa All-American Community College Scholarship Team. DeAlba plans to bring his stepfather, Rodolfo, to the ceremony.
“Everything I do, I do it to make my parents proud,” he said. “They immigrated to the United States to help us achieve the American dream. I plan to continue going after my dream. I can’t wait to share this experience with my stepfather.”
DeAlba is set to graduate this May with an associate degree in liberal arts for transfer in social and behavioral sciences. He earned two additional associate degrees last spring. With a 3.66 cumulative grade point average, DeAlba has been accepted to California State University, Los Angeles and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He is waiting to hear from University of California, Berkeley. He plans to major in sociology to become a career and guidance counselor with at-risk students or pursue a career in politics.
“I want to make an impact on the community and continue to make Hancock and my family proud,” said DeAlba.
Last year, Hancock’s Rie Waldon and Jeremiah Hernandez were named to the All-California First Team. Daniela Calderon represented Hancock on the 2015 All-California First Team.