gmhTODAY Spring 2022 - Page 49

Paying it Back and Forward :

Local Dentist Sponsors Academic Scholarship by Jordan Rosenfeld

Though Jernell Escobar of Gilroy has a thriving dental practice , she knows what it ’ s like to come from humble beginnings and to fall on hard times . That ’ s part of her motivation in giving out a $ 1,000 academic scholarship to a senior graduating from high school on their way to college .

Her generosity is a family affair , as her husband , well known local orthodontist Bas Wafflebacher , has also been giving out scholarships for years .
“ My husband has been in the community since 1988 , and in 2008 , when the economy took a downturn , he started a scholarship fund and , every year , awarded one student from each of the high schools in Morgan Hill , Gilroy , and Hollister . That inspired me ,” she said .
Her only challenge was picking one student out of many who could use the help . “ There ’ s a lot of need and talent and super smart kids in the area ,” she said . She turned to her husband ’ s marketing assistant to find the students and encourage them to apply , then narrowed them down to a final four .
This year ’ s winner , Angelica Lara , of Hollister , was an instant choice for Escobar . “ When I started reading , I started crying . This girl has a similar story to me , so it really touched me .”
Like Escobar , Angelica ’ s family is from Mexico , and Escobar ’ s parents were farm workers .
“ Traditionally in Latino families , historically speaking , women aren ’ t really encouraged to become educated . For my cousins and other family members , it was assumed they ’ d just have kids and get married ,” Escobar said .
She feels lucky to have been an exception . Her father had only an eighth grade education , and wanted to be sure that his daughter would have a very different educational experience .
Dr . Jernell Escobar served seven years in the US Air Force as a Public Health techinican and attended San Jose State and University of the Pacific School of Dentistry . She has been practicing dentistry in the bay area since 2006 . For more information visit : jescobardds . com or call 408-847-2658
“ My parents wouldn ’ t let me work outside the home ,” Escobar said . “ My job was to go to school and do the best I could . And that was Angelica ’ s similar situation .”
Angelica impressed Escobar with her grades – nearly all straight As – and other factors . “ Despite all of the challenges in her home life … she was able to overcome that and work really hard . I looked at her GPA , things she did in the community , how well rounded she was .”
Also like Escobar ’ s family , education is extremely important to Angelica ’ s family . “ Because her parents were not educated , they pushed her in a positive way to become educated . That really touched me ,” Escobar said .
For Escobar , this scholarship is a form of “ paying it back ” to all the mentors who have guided her along the way and “ paying it forward ” for the next generation , as well .
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