Megan Gritsch grew up in Lodi, Calif., where residents just seem to know each other. “People would always ask me, ‘Is your dad Ron?’” laughs Megan, 20, a UC Berkeley junior. “Everyone knew my dad.” The daughter of a salesman and postal carrier, Megan’s modest home graced the Mokelumne River. Although her parents did not go to college, Megan says they always expected it of her and her younger sister. “Education has always been very emphasized,” she says. “I could not have come here without their support.”
Megan’s grandmother, Marilla, took care of her after school, always putting homework before play. That academic focus paid off in high school where Megan earned top grades, ran cross country, and joined the “Nerds Club.” She was thrilled to be accepted to UC Berkeley. Megan recalls her first Cal welcome week night rally two years ago, walking and singing with a crush of students behind the marching band.
I remember thinking everyone is so smart, so spirited, and so happy to be at Cal,says Megan, now vice chair of Rally Com, a student group that plans festive, collegial events.
Like many middle-income students, Megan pays for her education and living expenses from a patchwork of sources — a Lodi Rotary Club scholarship, grants, and significant support from her parents who took out a federal loan to help with college. The financial balance is tenuous. When her dad was laid off from his sales job recently, Megan started working 15–20 hours per week at the student store. She says she wishes Berkeley could provide scholarships to everyone in need so that students aren’t burdened with work and then loan debt long after graduation. For Megan, it’s worth it. “I couldn’t believe I had considered going
anywhere else,” she says. “Berkeley was the best decision of my life.”