Senior Jacy Hirschberg finds a new mind-set and locks down a college scholarship in the process
When Jacy Hirschberg started at Dos Pueblos High School, a college degree wasn’t even on her mind. Now the graduating senior is on her way to San Jose State University with a scholarship in tow.
Jacy, 18, was born in Santa Clarita but moved to Santa Barbara at an early age with her mother, Hannah Hirschberg.
“It was really hard to find an apartment, I think we lived in a shelter for two or three months,” said Jacy. They eventually moved into a Goleta apartment complex off La Goleta Road.
While Jacy and her mother’s living situation stabilized by the time she started pre-school, her father, Steven Austin, became periodically homeless over the last four years.
“He was living in an apartment, down near CC (Santa Barbara City College), for awhile but then they kicked everyone out and raised the rent,” said Jacy. Her father’s bipolar disorder complicated his search for affordable housing and now he lives in his truck.
“He comes over like once a week. We have a pretty good relationship. I have a really good support system, my mom, my dad, my boyfriend. They’re really good about helping me get into college.”
Jacy said she applied to a number of universities and ultimately chose to enroll in the SJSU psychology program. She will be interning at Hope School over the summer to gain experience working with special needs students.
“My dad has bipolar disorder and that’s been a cause of a lot of struggles that we’ve had. And my childhood experiences have made me realize there’s not a lot of support for mental illness so I just want to help that in society.”
Due to her success in high school, Jacy will be headed to San Jose with a $5,000 a year scholarship from Dell computers . The package includes a free computer and a textbook stipend. She also received the $2,700 Santa Barbara Scholarship.
Jacy credits her 54 AVID program cohorts and AVID instructor Rob Schiff with helping her to realize that a college education is an attainable goal.
“My first couple years of high school were really difficult. Dealing with family issues and having that as a stress, trying to find housing for my dad. A lot of people in AVID had similar stresses as me so it was nice to have a community,” said Jacy.
Advancement Via Individual Determination is a college-readiness program for potential first-generation college students.
Jacy said Mr. Schiff became a father figure to the cohort over their four years at Dos Pueblos and walked them through the college admissions process. The students took low-cost university tours and heard lectures from guest speakers. Mr. Schiff also kept a log of his students’ grades to ensure they were on track to graduate.
“My parents never finished and it wasn’t something I knew I could do. But at the end of my sophomore year I just realized that I could do it. I met my boyfriend and he was very supportive. I got more involved in school and AVID. I just focused on myself and had the mind-set that I was going to college when before I didn’t.”
The Dos Pueblos High School graduation ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Scott O’Leary Stadium.