Josh and Liliana Rosales
Josh and Liliana Rosales

Josh and Liliana - A dynamic duo at Foothill, then UCLA and now in life

Foothill alums Liliana Rosales (née Guillen) and Josh Rosales have a lot going on these days. From getting married, buying and renovating a house, and starting a family, to earning master’s degrees and promotions, they are quite busy. However, according to them, none of what’s going on in their lives now would have happened without Foothill College.

Liliana came to Foothill after graduating from Menlo Atherton High School. Although at the top of her class, her immigration status prior to enactment of California’s Dream Act prohibited her from getting any financial aid to attend the many universities where she was accepted.

Even though she lived closer to Cañada College, Liliana’s high school counselor recommended Foothill because of the college’s rigorous honors program that would help Liliana stand out when she decided to transfer.

Josh’s path to Foothill was more circumspect. He graduated from high school but didn’t plan on higher education as it seemed out of reach. That all changed when he met Liliana, who encouraged him to go back to school and join her at Foothill. From that point on, Josh and Liliana were inseparable and were determined to become the first in their families to graduate from college.

“If we had to do this all over, we would still choose Foothill, because most people just do the full four years at a university, and it's very expensive. But if you can do two years at community college, it takes out half of the cost,” Josh said.

The Transfer Admission Guarantee and Transfer Alliance Program provided more reasons for Liliana and Josh to choose Foothill. Their shared goal at Foothill was to transfer into one of the University of California campuses, especially Liliana's dream school, UCLA.

While at Foothill, Josh and Liliana participated in leadership opportunities available on campus, including the Community Ambassador Program and the Associated Students of Foothill College with Josh being voted in as Student Body President and becoming a recipient of the prestigious Foothill Emerging Leader Award. Being active on campus taught them valuable leadership skills and helped them connect to resources. Because they were so involved at the college, they saw how their fellow students were affected by Silicon Valley’s high cost of living, which gave them the impetus to help create new basic needs resources for students, such as a food pantry.

Josh and Liliana’s legacy lives on at Foothill as the food pantry, which originally partnered with Whole Foods, has gained new partners, including Second Harvest and West Valley Community Services. Today, Foothill’s food pantry helps hundreds of students annually.

The Foothill-De Anza Foundation Board of Directors launched the Hope Initiative to address some of the same needs recognized by Josh and Liliana. The initiative focuses on the areas of food insecurity, housing insecurity, and mental health because research shows that students that receive help meeting these basic needs are more likely to stay in school and be successful. In December 2023 the Foundation secured a $1 million matching pledge of support from an anonymous donor, allowing contributions that support these essential services to be doubled.

When asked what they would do if they had $1 million to give to Foothill, Liliana said, “There are so many things: the food pantries, maybe a scholarship that only goes for living expenses, maybe create a fund to pay for students that are undocumented on campus and need a job. Any of those.”

“Like a transfer scholarship where it's inclusive of however you want to utilize the funds,” Josh said.

Josh and Liliana worked hard, graduating with high honors and ten associate degrees from Foothill between them, reaching Liliana’s dream of transferring to UCLA. Yet, they faced challenges covering living expenses, including rent, food and transportation, throughout their educational journey and especially when transitioning from the Bay Area to UCLA.

Their experience highlights the crucial role of the Hope Initiative in supporting students' well-being and ensuring access to fundamental resources.

“A lot of the scholarships that we did have, they had so many restrictions,” Josh said. “The majority of them were very tuition focused. We looked at all the scholarships we had, and looked at the tuition, and we had more than enough to cover that cost. So, what we were very grateful for were the scholarships that had more flexibility. That allowed us to pay for food or rent or gas.”

Josh and Liliana felt that Foothill was a home away from home and fondly recall the support received from instructors like Lisa Drake and Brian Evans, who not only taught them but also sponsored Liliana while she attended UCLA. There is a tightknit community at Foothill, where accessibility, support, and personal connections with instructors create a sense of belonging, something Liliana and Josh say was integral to their success.

Of her overall experience at Foothill, Liliana said, “I think coming here, it changed my whole perspective. I was like, I'm so grateful to be here, I'm so grateful to be surrounded by a community, a village that wants to see you succeed. If you put yourself out there, there's so many opportunities.”