When tasked with choosing a career path at the beginning of his academic career, all Manny Rene Bernal knew was that he wanted to do something meaningful with his life. But, the path to get there wasn’t always easy.

 

Last August, Bernal’s father passed away. And the year before that, he lost his grandmother. While mourning the loss of two of the most important people in his life, Bernal realized that along with wisdom, age also brings about greater chances of health issues. “I now encourage all my friends and loved ones to get yearly checkups and to avoid taking any chances,” he said.

What Set Cuyamaca Apart

Prior to these events, Bernal participated in the Summer Bridge Program, an event designed to empower incoming students with the knowledge and tools needed to successfully navigate through Cuyamaca's systems.

 

When weighing his options, Bernal loved the fact that instructors at Cuyamaca seemed to dedicate more time to each student compared to those at other community colleges.

 

Rachel Jacob-Almeida, a full-time sociology professor, made a particularly strong impression on him.  “Despite having cancer and being in pain a lot of the time, she always had this vibrant, positive energy. There was a smile on her face no matter what. She made college especially enjoyable for me,” said Bernal.

Choosing Social Work

Bernal is now pursuing a degree in social work, a choice that stems, in part, from his upbringing. “Growing up, I always knew what to look for in a social worker. They were patient, empathetic, and had a caring, protecting nature,” Bernal explains.

 

Another aspect Bernal enjoys about social work is engaging the individual to create a person-centered plan, which requires a great deal of flexibility, critical thinking, and creativity.

Plans Post-College

After earning his associate degree, Bernal plans to work with low income communities mainly in Chula Vista and National City.

 

“I want to play a role in uplifting those communities and advocating for anyone in need to the fullest extent, whether it’s children, or the elderly, or anyone in between,” he adds.