Mario Escudero plans to study medicine

Jan Bernstein Chargin | Patch | Jun 18, 2020

Mario Escudero dealt with death in the family, survived his kids’ teen years, worked full time and explored multiple educational programs and leadership paths on his way to receiving the UCSC Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Award.

“He has been a valued member of the Gavilan community for several years,” said Dr. Kathleen Rose, Superintendent/President of Gavilan College. “And he has provided student leadership in ASGC and other campus groups.”

The path started in 1998, a few years out of high school. Escudero explored business and accounting while he was working at a bank. But, he discovered, “That wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

His next foray a few years later, looking to buy a business, was cosmetology. “I’m a beauty school dropout,” he joked, “Because I wasn’t good looking enough.”

CSIS was next, but he couldn’t just sit in front of a computer. He explored Aviation Maintenance Technology and enjoyed the great instructors. While that still wasn’t what he wanted to do, he did discover he’s a people person.

And then his father, a smoker, was diagnosed with cancer.

“More than 12 years ago, I had to be my dad’s full time provider,” he said. “I had to learn how to take care of him.” Escudero was inspired by the hospital staff and their enormous caring as they taught him how to take care of his father. He also enrolled in Allied Health courses.

“I discovered I have the empathy to care for others,” he said. “I thought about becoming a physician. Could I find the resources to stay in school that long?” He got involved with student government, joined the Physician Assistant Club on campus, applied and was accepted to a pre-med apprenticeship at Stanford University.

And his mother, grieving, became a recluse.

“We started Walk for Health on campus around finals time,” said Escudero. “It was also around Mother’s Day. We got her out of the house and walking again, to cope with her grief.”
He participated in student services programs: EOPS, MESA, STEM and the Accessible Education Center.

“(Gavilan Instructor) Rob Overson reached out, asked if I had ever thought about getting tested,” said Escudero. As an older student taking challenging courses, raising teenagers and dealing with the death of a parent, he was initially resistant. Overson succeeded in getting him past it.

“It turns out I have high test anxiety, which classroom noise makes one hundred times worse,” said Escudero. “It was a big game changer, understanding myself.”

In response, he tutored students with visual impairments and learning disabilities. “I know what it’s like,” he told them. “I could understand, and show them tools that could help.”

Escudero explored STEM opportunities, working in Dr. Grant Herzog’s lab at UCSC and in Dr. Brook’s lab at SJSU researching viruses, and was later invited to present his research findings at SACNAS in 2017. He even got to name two of the viruses he discovered – Matthew and Daija – after his teenage kids with their infectious personalities.

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