In the rush of day-to-day issues that face any public university, sometimes it is possible to lose sight of the big picture of why we do what we do.

However, around Cal State Monterey Bay, there is always something to bring that picture back sharply into focus.

February’s Have a Heart for Students Fundraiser was just such an occasion. What made the event particularly memorable for me – along with the nearly $200,000 we raised – were the stories from several students who receive scholarships.

Julio Castro, Emma Ramirez and Julia AshenOur outstanding speakers -- Julia Ashen, Julio Castro and Emma Ramirez -- personified the range of students who benefit from Cal State Monterey Bay’s programs.

Julia was valedictorian at North Salinas High School before coming to CSUMB, where she has starred both as a scholar as an all-conference member of our volleyball team. Julio, the son of Mexican immigrants who strongly believe in the importance of education, will graduate from our university this spring. Emma is also on track to graduate, an impressive accomplishment for a young woman who lived in 10 different foster homes before becoming a teenager.

Listen to these students, and you understand that Cal State Monterey Bay is indeed a place of extraordinary opportunity.

More than half of our students are first generation. More than 70 percent receive some form of financial aid. Our success in reaching into underserved areas is important, not just to those students, but to our state and nation. We need more college graduates to build our economy and society.

Have a Heart also highlights the support our university receives from our community. The volunteers on the Have a Heart Committee are dedicated to making each event better than the last.

The state budget picture has improved in recent months. However, we still have far to go to recover from the damaging reductions of recent years. Local fundraising will remain vital. That’s why the success of Have a Heart is so gratifying.

With stories like those of Julia, Julio and Emma and countless others to tell, and a generous community to serve, our future is bright.

- Dr. Eduardo Ochoa