Editor’s Note: Currents caught up with some of PG&E’s Bright Minds Scholarship winners from 2012 — the first year of the scholarship program. In a conversation with Currents writer David Kligman, 27-year-old Marisa Montoya Monier, the first in her family to attend college, discusses why she got so emotional when she found out she had won the $30,000-a-year renewable scholarship and how it has freed her and her family from the financial burdens of higher education.
To apply for a 2013 PG&E Bright Minds scholarship, go to www.pge.com/brightminds. The application deadline is Feb. 28.
Marisa Montoya Monier
I’m Marisa Montoya Monier and I’m a 2012 PG&E Bright Minds Scholarship winner. I’m 27 years old from Sacramento, Calif., and I’m studying peace and conflict at UC Berkeley.
Applying for the scholarship
I found out about the scholarship from my grandmother, who saw a little snippet in the Sacramento Bee. And she cut it out and wrote my name on it. She wrote, ‘For Marisa’ and gave it to my aunt to give to me. The scholarship is an amazing scholarship. I can have $30,000 a year until I graduate from Berkeley and it’s renewable. It basically will pay for everything for me.
The day she learned she had won
I got an email and a phone call — they set up an appointment for me to come in to the West Sacramento PG&E office. I was told that a panel of three was going to ask me questions and that it was informal but just to meet me and find out who I was. I think it was the entire PG&E staff sitting in a conference room and they had party hats on and blow horns. I didn’t even walk all the way through the door. I just started crying.
Why she got so emotional
It was emotional for me because I remember when I got into Cal my aunt said to me, ‘OK, so we’re going to make this happen.’ And I knew that that meant us acquiring debt like a lot of people today. And when I found out that this huge burden was going to be lifted from my family and myself — it was a good feeling knowing that we didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
Telling family she had won
One of the first things I did was drive over to my grandparents’ house and show them the jumbo check. We put it in the kitchen and admired it and they were just swelling with pride. They were just so happy. Whenever anybody comes over they take a picture with it.
First in her family to attend college
What this means is that I can show people in my family that anything’s possible. And to my nephew — he hasn’t stopped talking about going to college since I won the scholarship. I had no idea that this scholarship and me going to a university would have such a big impact on other people in my family.
Scholarship is liberating
To be able to completely focus on school and not worry about working or pulling myself in a million different directions just to make it here — just to barely make it here — it’s a relief. It feels good to know that people believe in me enough that I’m able to do this. This is what I do. This is my job. My job is to be a student.