Dean’s Award ’22 – Education: Josue Vasquez’s mother had faith in him, and he rewarded it
May 10, 2022
Josue Vasquez’s mom was not happy.
She had used nearly all of her tax refund to buy him a computer, monitor, and printer, and all Vasquez was using it for was video games.
“One day she tells me with tears in her eyes, ‘You know, I didn't buy this so you could just play video games. I thought you were going to use it for school,’ ” Vasquez said. “I told her, ‘I promise you, I'm going to do something with this. My career will involve computers.’ ”
It has. Vasquez has worked for more than two decades in the IT industry, most recently in the Oxnard Unified School District providing computer training to students and their parents, many of them underrepresented and with limited tech literacy.
He also is a Sacramento State student graduating in May with his bachelor’s degree in Career and Technical Studies. For his academic excellence and his commitment to his community, he is the recipient of the 2022 Dean’s Award for the College of Education.
Vasquez was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, his mother an immigrant from El Salvador and his father an immigrant from Mexico. Vasquez said being a first-generation American growing up in rough neighborhoods was difficult, but “for myself, I always wanted more.”
“In high school, I struggled a bit trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn't want the rest of my life to be how it had been up to that point,” he said.
Shortly after his mom chastised him for playing video games, he bought a video card for his computer – which broke the machine as soon as he installed it. He went to the library and learned how to fix it, his first foray into the world of IT.
Vasquez’s first tech job was at Fry’s Electronics, and he also worked at CompUSA and Best Buy. He had his own tech business for a time. He enrolled in junior college after high school but didn’t stick with it.
“(Josue Vasquez) represents some of the best aspects of our diverse and dedicated undergraduate student body.” - Alexander "Sasha" Sidorkin, College of Education dean
By 2014 he was a PC and network technician at the Oxnard school district and increasingly working with students. The teachers encouraged him to return to school and earn his degree so he could share his IT knowledge with more people.
He earned his associate’s degree from Oxnard College in 2019, then enrolled in Sac State’s fully online Bachelor’s of Science in Career and Technical Studies (BSCTS) program, run jointly by the College of Education and the College of Continuing Education and designed for working adults.
Sac State gave Vasquez a “huge confidence boost.” He appreciated instructors who encouraged students to think outside the box, including one who challenged them to take unique approaches to assignments. For one, Vasquez recorded himself in front of a green screen, completing the assignment as if he were a television news reporter, and gaining video skills he said would come in handy in his teaching career.
“If you're motivated and you’ve got a teacher like that who is putting this new thought process in your head, approaching things differently, you're going to learn more than what you bargained for,” he said.
Vasquez now works as a computer information science instructor at Oxnard College and as an IT specialist with Zynga, a San Francisco-based game company famous for titles such as Farmville and Words with Friends. He also is considering pursuing a master’s degree.
In nominating Vasquez for the Dean’s Award, College of Education Dean Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin noted Vasquez’s drive to support technology in high school classrooms after noticing only affluent, white students were taking advantage of advanced computer courses.
“From this experience, Mr. Vasquez became passionate about supporting underserved children who have very little resources, like he was growing up, to gain basic computational skills which will prepare them for more advanced skills and their future careers,” Sidorkin said. “(He) represents some of the best aspects of our diverse and dedicated undergraduate student body.”
When Vasquez formally receives the Dean’s Award at Commencement in May, his wife, kids, and yes, his mom, will be there watching.
“I really do credit my time at Sac State and just getting this program done,” he said. “It really opened up many doors, so I'm very grateful.”
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