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Laura Guiterrez, 2020 Graduate

Laura Gutierrez has accomplished much in a little time.

She moved from Mexico to Silicon Valley in 2013, with a commitment to learn – and master – English. She enrolled in a community college, first with a focus on English classes and then later to pursue a profession.

A few years later, she began dating her soon-to-be husband. The couple’s son, Nathan, was born in October 2019 – when Laura was in her senior year at San Jose State University. Two weeks after delivering Nathan via C-section, Laura was back in the classroom.

It’s been a busy seven years. But Laura’s determination and hard work paid off with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on human resources. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.9 grade-point average.

College scholarships from the JB Brown Fund allowed Laura to focus on her classes, completing college and later being a mother – and worry less about the cost of higher education. She received about $11,000 in college scholarships from the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and social services provider LifeSTEPS.

“It helped out a lot,” says Laura, who learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from her husband, who tapped into the program to complete his degree at San Jose State and become an elementary school teacher.

The couple live at Mayfair Court Apartments, a USA Properties-owned apartment community in San Jose.

“It paid for more than half of my tuition,” she says of the scholarships. “I really appreciate the help.”

Laura, who worked until a few weeks before the birth of Nathan, will soon begin her job search. She would like to join a company that embraces data analytics, especially when it comes to human resources.

“I fell in love with analytics,” says Laura, who enjoys math. “I like to look at the story behind the numbers. I want to help a company make the right decisions. But I also like the process of helping people.”

It’s a belief that is the cornerstone of the JB Brown Fund.

“When I came here, I didn’t even know English,” says Laura, who is grateful for the many donors that help others reach their goals. “It really helps people like me achieve their dreams.”

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Sandra Roksic, 2020 Graduate

College graduate Sandra Roksic is focused on the road ahead, with a goal of developing self-driving vehicles trusted by their drivers – and pedestrians.

“It was my dream to come here and do this,” says Sandra, who graduated in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Cal Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

Achieving her dream required commitment, focus and hard work – in the classroom and in the workforce. Along with her demanding full-load class schedule, Sandra often worked two jobs to help pay for school and, like 70% of students nationwide, she also relied on student loans.

But the burden has been made a bit easier, thanks to the J.B. Brown Fund. Sandra learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from the community manager at Rancho Carrillo Apartments in Carlsbad, where her family has lived since she was in the sixth grade. The $2,800 scholarship helped Sandra earn her degree.

Now, she has started on her master’s degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly-SLO. Sandra, who is busy with an internship this summer and will teach a class at the university this fall semester, expects to earn her master’s degree in June 2021.

Then, she would like to join an automaker like Volkswagen AG that is leading the way on autonomous vehicles. “There are so many exciting, interesting developments in the auto industry,” she says.

Her family – her parents and a teenage brother – encouraged Sandra to apply for college and pursue a degree in electrical engineering (she also earned a minor in math).

“My parents have made so many sacrifices for me,” says Sandra, who moved with her parents from Serbia to San Diego as a 4-year-old. Her parents looked for a good, safe community with excellent schools and found Carlsbad. The city and the apartment community “feel like home.”

And her “home” helped open the door to a college degree and new opportunities. The J.B. Brown Fund has awarded hundreds of college scholarships to residents living in USA Properties Fund apartment communities.

“I’m super grateful. I wouldn’t be here without the support and the belief of so many people,” she says. “They put their faith in me and what I can accomplish.”

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Victoria Solis, 2020 Graduate

College is full of challenges, from choosing a major to getting the classes needed to graduate on time.

Fortunately, the high cost of higher education was not another issue for Victoria Solis, thanks to the J.B. Brown Fund.

The nonprofit organization awarded Victoria with four scholarships – a total of about $11,000 – during the past two years, paying for her tuition and books.

I’m very grateful of the opportunity that the scholarship gave me,” says Victoria, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University in spring 2020. “I don’t have to worry about any loans and have that financial burden.

Victoria, who lives with her parents at Mayfair Court Apartments in San Jose, learned about the college scholarship from the community manager. The scholarship allowed Victoria to focus on her classes during the week and work part-time on weekends.

Victoria, who was born with a neuromuscular disease and relies on a wheelchair, graduated in four years. Only 16% of students graduate on time from the California State University system.

“That was something that I really wanted to accomplish,” says Victoria, who carried at least 15 units every semester.

She will take some much-deserved time off during the next year, and plans to return to school and pursue a master’s degree with the career goal of being a licensed counselor. “I always like to help people,” she says.

Much like the hundreds of supporters of the J.B. Brown Fund.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to pursue higher education,” Victoria says to those who donate to the organization. “You’re not just supporting us financially, you’re helping us reach other goals, too. Thank you for helping us in so many ways.”