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Joshua Steinberg

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Growing up in San Carlos, Joshua Steinberg was surrounded by alcoholism and drug addiction. He escaped through education and is now set to earn his GED, an associate's degree, and a $20,000 scholarship to complete his studies at UC Santa Cruz before most students his age have completed high school.

"I was surrounded by bad influences as a child," said Steinberg, whose mother and father separated when he was young. "I learned what not to do from my mother and her immediate family. Instead of becoming like them, I was motivated to change direction."

As a sophomore at Carlmont High School, Steinberg found he wasn't being challenged academically. He enrolled at the age of sixteen in the Cañada Middle College High School Program and began taking college courses while simultaneously finishing his high school requirements. Middle College is a non-traditional high school collaboration between Cañada College and the Sequoia Union High School District. The alternative high school program gives students the opportunity to complete the requirements for high school graduation while enrolled in college courses. All courses are held at Cañada College.

"Middle College granted me the opportunity to pursue my goals," Steinberg explains. "The difference between high school and Middle College was the focused learning environment among peers who are dedicated to their aspirations and determined to reach their potential. Middle College and the learning environment at Cañada College were vital to my academic success."

Chuck Carlson, a history professor at Cañada, understood that Steinberg had an unusually tough road to achieve academic success. "He has an unusually high degree of motivation toward academic accomplishment, but what caught me was his motive to gain a deeper understanding of the material and the theoretical concepts behind it," Carlson said. "You don't find that thirst for a deeper level of comprehension in many students his age. He always elevated classroom discussions."

Steinberg has spent 11 months each of the past two years in school completing his high school and college coursework while making time for various volunteer services including a presidential campaign, renovating computers for disadvantaged children, and assisting a start-up nonprofit organization to benefit Cambodian children seeking to learn English. This past semester he achieved straight A's while taking 15 units. All of the above caught the eye of University of California at Santa Cruz administrators who awarded him the $20,000 Karl S. Pister Scholarship. The awards recognize talented students who have overcome adverse socioeconomic circumstances, have a demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others, and who might not otherwise be able to attend UCSC for financial reasons. Recipients receive $10,000 scholarships for each of two years, as well as the support of a strong academic mentoring program and assistance finding summer work experience in a field that complements their studies.

Steinberg will study History and education at UC Santa Cruz with the goal of becoming a teacher. After his bachelors he will pursue a masters and doctorate degree to ultimately become a university level professor.

"In third grade I discovered that I love to learn," he said. "I want to share that resonating experience with others. Teachers are potentially the greatest leaders with responsibilities to direct and instruct the next generation of children and ultimate successors." Steinberg said he hopes to do a summer internship in a high school with disadvantaged students. "Just because you come from a disadvantaged background doesn't mean you can't succeed. You can use education to lift yourself up. You can still push yourself to be the best you can be. I want to present that message to my students."

While growing up in his mother's house wasn't easy, Steinberg said he did have the help of his father, Harvey Steinberg, who lives in San Francisco. "My dad has always been there for me, through everything at all times."