Gabriela Rosas Calderon
Gabriela Rosas Calderon’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Boucher, continues to inspire her.
The incoming first-year student at Weber State University, recalls parent teacher conferences at Odyssey Elementary School in Ogden.
“Being bilingual, Mrs. Boucher really helped my mom and dad understand what was going on in school.” A bilingual third grade teacher left a similar impression.
“In elementary school, I looked up to my teachers as role models,” Rosas recalled. “I want to be like that when I grow up.”
Rosas was eight or nine years old when she realized she wanted to be a teacher.
“My mom was taking English classes. Other kids waited with me while our moms were in class,” Rosas said. “I saw kids struggling, and I like to help people, so I would play teacher with them.
“When you are a kid, you don’t always see the real world. You have a creative imagination — a different mindset. I thought I was giving them a reward. They were giving me something more special.”
Rosas’ parents and extended family are originally from Mexico.
Growing up, Rosas realized the importance of giving back to her community, especially those with fewer opportunities or resources, including Hispanic students, people of color in general, and those from lower-income households.
“Within my family, I’m seen as a role model to my younger cousins. They come to me for help when it comes to school.”
Rosas’ dream of becoming an elementary school teacher is one step closer to reality, thanks to a full-ride scholarship courtesy of the Utah Jazz. She is one of 30 students statewide selected by the Salt Lake City-based NBA team.
As early as junior high, Rosas planned to attend Weber State, but in high school, she started considering other colleges in and out of Utah.
“My counselors said Weber State has the best teacher education program,” Rosas said. “I’d been to WSU for conferences and events, and I did a campus tour. Just walking through the buildings, the environment spoke to me.”
Rosas also realized how attached she was to her home life. She couldn’t imagine going out of state for school, especially given all the support she’s received from her parents.
“My mom would take me to the library on Jefferson Avenue, for reading activities. We would ride the bus, read books, and go to classes,” Rosas said. “My mom just wanted the best for me. She embraced my education. She’s always supportive. Even in high school, she never missed a parent teacher conference or an awards ceremony.”
“My dad works extra long hours outside. I hate seeing him come home tired,” she said.
Rosas’ father is a huge fan of the rock groups Queen and Guns and Roses, and loves American culture.
Rosas played basketball in middle school, and, thanks to her dad, has always been a big fan of the Utah Jazz. She was only weeks old when he took her to her first NBA game. When she was 12, her dad received tickets to go see the Jazz play again. She fondly recalls the expression on his face watching that game together.
But she had no idea the Utah Jazz would play such a key role with her education, and her ultimate goal of teaching at her alma mater, Odyssey Elementary School.
Rosas’ TRIO advisor at Ogden High School, Jesus Garcia, constantly told her about scholarship opportunities, including the new Jazz Scholarship intended for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), first-generation college students with financial need.
“It’s complicated when it comes to income,” Rosas said. As an only child, she didn’t qualify for FAFSA. “I was having a hard time getting scholarships despite my financial need.”
When Garcia encouraged her to apply for the Jazz scholarship, she used notecards and many retakes to create a short video talking about her desire to become a bilingual teacher and help future generations by offering students the resources she didn’t have at their age.
When the Jazz called in May to let her know she was receiving one of their scholarships, she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe it.
“Is it really true? It’s not a fraud,” her mother asked.
For Rosas, sharing the news with her parents was the highlight.
“They came to this country with nothing and gave me everything,” she said. “I received the scholarship, but it represents all their hard work and dedication.”
Hard work and dedication that she hopes to one day repay by buying her parents a home, once she’s a college graduate.
"My parents came to this country with nothing and gave me everything."