Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Coastal student Jack Ortega receives scholarship

Jack Ortega. Courtesy photo.

FORT BRAGG, Calif. – The Mendocino College Foundation announced that Jack Ortega is its latest scholarship winner.

“My experience at Mendocino College has been a story of successes,” scholarship recipient Jack Ortega said. “I really didn’t expect the quality of education I have received here. It’s been more than I could have hoped for.”

Confident and eloquent, Ortega is very specific in his praise. “The magic of this school is how they choose good teachers, working professionals who are outstanding in their fields.”

Ortega cites his astronomy classes with Tim Beck, who involved him with a fascinating project, which was maintaining the local software for SETI-CAMS, tracking meteorites and cataloging comet trail debris. “I was not expecting to find a project like that in Mendocino County. There have been a lot of surprises. I feel lucky to have found it.”

In particular, The MESA Center on the Ukiah Campus, (a statewide mathematics, engineering and science achievement program), “has been a huge part of my experience,” he said.

Ortega described this extraordinary environment as “a learning community where talking is encouraged, people communicate with each other, and solve their problems. The best friendships I’ve had at Mendocino College have all started through MESA. It is so precious, honestly.”

He credits Amanda Xu, the director of MESA when he started there, as “really fantastic. She introduced me to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program, a federal research grant. My project was to study and map the noise levels in MTA busses, which impact the health and safety of the drivers and riders.”

That stipend included a trip to a professional transportation conference in Washington, DC.

Ortega plans to follow up his associate’s degree in computer sciences with a transfer to a four-year school and continue his academic journey, pursuing an engineering degree.

“I will always want to be learning. I’ve had such a good experience here at Mendocino College. The academic environment is at a high level here,” Ortega said.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Ortega was introduced to programming in high school, which inspired him to delve into the mysteries of software. “I like programming. It’s the only work I’ve ever done that doesn’t feel like work. It’s like a puzzle. I want to answer the question, “How can computer science help solve problems?”

Aware of the educational and career opportunities in computer sciences in Northern California, Ortega joined his parents on the Mendocino Coast, where they had retired.

Ortega started at Mendocino College with just a few classes at the Coast Center. Soon he was commuting to the main campus in Ukiah, using the Students Ride Free program on Mendocino Transit Authority busses.

The scholarship he received was the Silveira Cleary Family Scholarship which enabled him to move to Ukiah and take advantage of higher division classes and other campus activities.

Ortega strongly encourages potential students. “You can start with just one or two classes and find out if learning is for you. It’s a great way to have a community and improve yourself at the same time. College is what you make of it, and Mendocino College makes it easy for you.”

For more information about the Mendocino College Foundation or to donate towards any of their programs, contact Coast Development Director Anna Kvinsland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 707-961-2203.

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