UC Berkeley Senior: Resilient and Determined to Make Change

Students Rising Above is in its 20th year of investing in Bay Area youth like David Padilla. Intelligent, resilient, and determined to make change in his community, David Padilla is breaking social and economic cycles of poverty. 

Read on for David’s incredible story of determination and inspiration below:


David has many challenges in life – economic hardship, the trauma of a home invasion at gunpoint, substance abuse in the family – yet he commits each and every day to creating a new narrative for himself, his family, and generations to come.

“I consider it a great privilege to attend UC Berkeley based on my family’s history. Education was not an option for my parents,” said David. “Access to a college education provides an opportunity to give back to families such as mine. I am forever grateful to Students Rising Above for helping make this all possible.”  

David’s family of five lived on the streets of Richmond, California, in and out of their van for several months at a time. Eventually they moved to a motel room and then a small apartment. Unfortunately, this was not the end of family hardships, as they were victims of a home invasion where the entire family was held at gunpoint. David did not let adversity interfere with his education; school was a place where David felt safe. David recalls, “I rose above these issues by focusing on my education.”

David became an advocate for himself and a role model in his family, breaking the cycle of poverty around him. David reflects: “Students Rising Above has impacted me in many ways over the past several years; they helped me emotionally with home issues, physically when I needed proper dental work, and educationally through my acceptance and continued success at UC Berkeley. Students Rising Above continues to empower me to do greater things for both myself and my community.” 

Recently returning home from studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, David is beginning his final year at UC Berkeley where he studies Political Economy and Health Care Delivery. David’s resume is impressive. Throughout his college career, he has worked extensively with the City of Richmond. He left such an impression during his first summer internship, he has been invited back every year; from helping implement the first-ever rent control program, to conducting research through UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health to evaluate the impact of current health policy on the Richmond community.

Without the coaching of his Students Rising Above advisor and various resources offered by the SRA Career Development team, David’s access to these opportunities and pathways may not have been possible. 

Together, we are offering life-changing resources that enable 91% of our students, like David, to graduate from college within five years and become catalysts for change in their communities. We are forever grateful to our deep-rooted community for the generosity and investment in the future of our students.