A founding DLE faculty member gives to empower the next generation

April 22, 2024
Alberto Ochoa at Chicano Park

Alberto Ochoa attended Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles during the tumult of the 1960s. The school was a hotbed of Chicano student activism, culminating in massive walkouts to protest discriminatory education practices.

While Lincoln High — where only 10 members of his graduating class continued to college — offered Ochoa a glimpse of the kind of systemic inequity he would spend a career in academia working to eliminate, the educators there also offered him something else upon graduation.

“The teaching staff at Lincoln High School gave me a scholarship,” Ochoa recalls. “It was a small scholarship — $50 — but it was meaningful to me because it said someone has expectations of you. This scholarship enabled me to enter CSULA for the fall 1965 semester. It was just the act of recognizing me and giving me motivation to continue."

Now a professor emeritus at San Diego State University, Ochoa is out to ensure that future students feel that same motivation. He recently made a gift to endow the Drs. Alberto Ochoa and Maria Elena Ochoa Scholarship, honoring his wife, who was a mathematics teacher and counselor for 35 years in the Sweetwater Union High School District. 

The scholarship supports students in the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education (DLE), which trains teachers to support bilingual and multilingual learners. 

"My number one motivation is to give back to the community and specifically to DLE, which has special meaning to me,” Ochoa said. “I also want to make sure that the area of multilingualism continues to grow and is specific in the training of bilingual, multilingual teachers. It's a small scholarship, but it's a beginning."

Ochoa, whom current DLE faculty and staff lovingly call “Padrino” (godfather), was a founding faculty member of DLE in 1978 and would later serve as its chair for 15 years. From 1999-2005, he was also director of SDSU’s Joint Ph.D. Program in Education with Claremont Graduate University.

In September, Ochoa was one of several SDSU faculty members immortalized on a Chicano Park mural saluting educators who contributed to the Chicano Rights movement.

"We've had a number of moments of struggle throughout the journey of this department,” Ochoa said of DLE. “So, the pride I take is that, in spite of resistance, we're still thriving.”

Though now retired, Ochoa is still active in SDSU’s College of Education. He serves on Dean Y. Barry Chung’s External Advisory Board to the Dean and most Tuesdays, he can be found in the DLE offices meeting with prospective students.

“I am so grateful to Dr. Ochoa for his dedication to our college, our students and future generations of multilingual learners,” Chung said. “We have all benefited greatly from his wisdom and expertise, and I am delighted that future bilingual educators will be empowered and inspired by the scholarship he has so generously created.”

Ochoa is also hoping that the scholarship does more than inspire students. He’s hoping his colleagues take notice, as well, to establish more scholarships.

"Hopefully we'll see other faculty members start to establish scholarships so we can create a community of scholarships and enrich the participation of our students," he said.

Donate to the Drs. Alberto Ochoa and Maria Elena Ochoa Scholarship by entering “Drs. Alberto Ochoa and Maria Elena Ochoa Scholarship” in other designations.
To learn more about supporting bilingual educators through philanthropy, please contact Megan Beardsley, senior director of development, at [email protected] or 619-594-2277.

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