Triumphing Against the Odds: Gilberto’s Juma Story

Gilberto was born in the United States but, alongside his parents, moved back to Mexico where he spent most of his childhood. After twelve years in Mexico, he knew that he wanted to continue his education in computer science but the best places to do that were not in Mexico. If he wanted to go to a University in the United States, his best chance was to graduate from a U.S. high school. In 2021, he moved back to California by himself–a brave journey for anyone, but as a teenager without day-to-day parental guidance, he would be especially vulnerable. 

Gilberto lived with his uncles while attending school but faced many challenges. Housing and food insecurity left him struggling to pursue his studies while barely making ends meet at home. Fortunately, Gilberto would soon meet members of Juma’s staff when they came to give a presentation at his high school about the opportunity to work at Oracle Park to earn income while receiving support for his college and career aspirations.

Gilberto immediately signed up to join Juma’s YouthConnect program and began work at Oracle Park. It wasn’t long before his performance on the job impressed his peers as well as Juma staff. He was especially skilled at forming relationships with customers during the short interactions between them placing their order and paying at the cash register, all in spite of his language barrier, as he was still building up his English skills. Juma’s Enterprise Manager at the time, Christian Kim, offered him a position at Ghirardelli Square, where Juma has a partnership and Juma youth can work longer shifts to earn more income. Gilberto was excited for this new challenge. “It was a cool experience, scooping ice cream, busier than any other place at Oracle Park,” he recalls.

In addition to his excellence on-the-job, Gilberto was also extremely motivated to perform outstandingly in his academic career with hopes of continuing his education after high school at an Ivy League university. At Juma, he found support for this goal with Education Coordinator, Becca Brown. Together, they worked tirelessly on college applications, mock interviews, and personal statements. For an entire year, in addition to earning a paycheck at his Juma job and honing his soft skills in the workplace, Gilberto met regularly with Becca over Zoom and by phone to make sure his applications were the strongest possible. Finally, after months of waiting, Gilberto and Becca were able to share in a special moment when Gilberto received news that he was waitlisted at Harvard and accepted at Stanford. 

“We cried and laughed together,” Gilberto says with a smile. “That was a way for me to thank her for all of her hard work.”

After being accepted into several Ivy League schools, Gilberto made the decision to attend Stanford University where he will be starting this Fall. He dreams of earning a degree in computer science with the hope of using the skills he learns to build a network of like-minded people who will help him establish a nonprofit organization in Mexico that teaches young people computer science skills and coding.

“I was just looking for a part-time job,” Gilberto says. “I never imagined signing up [with Juma] to work at Oracle Park would provide so many opportunities.”