Michelle Betanzos

As part of this year’s series, we are pleased to introduce Michelle Betanzos who will transfer to Cal Poly Pomona’s industry-leading Collins College of Hospitality Management in the fall. Michelle is a California Dream Act student who benefited greatly from our Puente and EOPS support programs.

#CYProud: Michelle Betanzos, Cypress to Cal Poly Pomona

  1. Origin — what is your back story (hometown, high school, personal story…)

I am originally from Tijuana. My parents brought me to the US as a young child fifteen years ago. From the start, my mom did everything possible to make sure that I had access to the best public education in the area. She worked hard so that I could go to the highest rated schools. She also encouraged me to take advantage of every extracurricular opportunity that I could. As a young girl she took me to our local YMCA and signed me up for youth basketball. I fell in love with the sport and have continued to play throughout my life. Today, I coach at the same YMCA that helped shape me. I absolutely love my job. The Y is like an extended family ­– so many there have seen me grow up.

  1. Why Cypress?

After graduating from Fullerton Union High School, I wanted to enroll at Fullerton College but soon learned that only Cypress offered a culinary arts program. After touring the Cypress campus, I was happy to enroll here. The campus is beautiful (more attractive Fullerton’s, in my opinion!), and the change of scenery turned out to be really nice. It felt better to know that I was going to a college that was a couple of miles away from my high school instead of just across the street.

When I started at Cypress I wasn’t really sure which classes I would take. I didn’t have much of a plan. Then I met Dr. Therese Mosqueda-Ponce, the Director of the Cypress College Puente Program. She helped me develop a comprehensive educational plan and define my career goals. Through her guidance, I realized that my interest in culinary arts was a viable professional path.

  1. @Cypress — what have you been involved with? How has your path unfolded?

I began culinary arts in junior high as an extracurricular class and really enjoyed it. At Fullerton Union, I took part in their four-year culinary arts/restaurant program. Thanks to the CA Dream Act I was able to get my license and begin to work while in high school. I’m so happy that Cypress offers a program in culinary arts and that it’s enabled me to continue my studies at one of the best four year institutions in this career field: the Collins School of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona.

At Cypress, I was very fortunate to take part in the Puente Program, which provided me invaluable life and career guidance. I’m also grateful for the financial aid and academic support of the EOPS program, which paid for my tuition fees, textbooks, and school supplies. The staff helped me stay on track, especially when I overloaded myself with unit credits and my goal seemed impossible. I also have to thank both programs for opening up four-year possibilities to me. Through EOPS and Puente, I had the opportunity to tour great institutions like Berkeley, UC Davis, Monterrey Bay, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UCLA.

  1. Faculty or staff that have helped you get where you are today.

Being a part of the Puente program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it opened so many doors and possibilities for me. Director Therese Mosqueda-Ponce and English professor Obed Silva wanted nothing but the best for their students and reminded our group each and every day that every one of us is capable of realizing our full potential. My Puente cohort was truly a familia.

It was through Puente that I was introduced to our Culinary Arts Program by way of an assigned mentor – Chef Stephanie, instructor of Baking and Pastry. Stefanie has become more than a professional resource for me… she has become a great friend.

I am also very grateful for the incredible leadership of Ms. Lisa Clark who oversees the HRC (Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program). She truly is an expert in her field. She also happens to be one of the most compassionate people I have met. She has really helped me refine my people skills, which is key to any service industry. Professionally, she seeks the best for her students. She gets us connected to the industry by making us aware of job openings, special events and networking opportunities.

  1. Post Cypress — what do you hope to do in the near term? What are your plans at Cal Poly Pomona?

This fall I will transfer to Cal Poly Pomona for Hospitality Management. I hope to live on campus and get involved in several extracurricular activities and service clubs so my plan is to move to the area. I’ll continue to work as a gymnastics instructor for the YMCA and as a front desk agent at Marriot Hotel’s Anaheim Suites. Next summer, I plan to apply to an out-of-state internship with Marriot’s Vacation Club. I’d like to be in Orlando, Florida. At some point down the line I’d like to attend the University of Central Florida for further specialization in Hotel Management and Special Events Planning.

  1. Longer-Term Vision — what do you aspire to?

My goal is to be a General Manager of a full service luxury hotel with a fine dining operation like the Ritz Carlton. I’d also like to take advantage of my associate’s degree specialization in baking and pastry by dabbling in dessert catering and special events as an entrepreneur.

  1. What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of getting into my dream school UCF, as well as all four state schools to which I applied: Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, San Diego State and San Francisco State. Although I decided to stay in state for the next two years, UCF remains in my future plans. Though it was difficult to make that decision, I know that it was the right one for now. My family is important to me and I still feel the need to stay close to home.

  1. Anything else you’d like to add…

I’ve been very fortunate during my time here at Cypress, I’ve had amazing counselors and very supportive staff to guide me along my way. Each year, I’ve had a financial aid package that made college a possibility for me. In addition, Cypress’ excellent student support services and programs like Puente helped me pay for textbooks, my cap and gown, school supplies and even my chef’s uniform. I’m grateful for all of these resources and incredible mentors– they’ve been foundational to my success.

In my time here, I’ve learned so much about myself. During my first year I had a car accident. Shortly thereafter, my mom suffered cardiovascular health issues. That was a hard period in my life. I became depressed, anxious, and my grades suffered as a result. I got out of that by becoming more proactive with my decisions and time. In taking care of my mom, I realized that nothing made me happier than taking care of others. I also came to realize that having the support of others really helped me, too. Instead of pushing people away, I opened up. That was possible because I found a group of people – faculty, staff and friends – who really wanted the best for me. I chose to spend more time with those who really matter to me.

I feel so blessed to be where I am today. I’ve been given so many opportunities and I won’t take any for granted.

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