Benito Gonzalez says two things helped motivate him when he was a child growing up in Merced: his own temperament and his father’s example.
I didn’t like doing yard work, he says with a smile. His father, who was attending Merced College himself, told his son that education would be the key to finding a career that didn’t require manual labor.
Gonzalez, now a developer in UC Merced’s Information Technology office, found talents that would carry him to a career he loved. At Tenaya Junior High School, a teacher allowed him to take a computer home for the weekend, and that, he says, is what hooked him. When a car accident on Highway 99 made it necessary for doctors to amputate his right leg at age 16, Gonzalez regretted losing some opportunities in sports, but dove further into computers a field where he could continue to excel despite his new disability.
After high school, Gonzalez was accepted at UC Berkeley. But visiting Cal, he found what he describes as culture shock.
I would have been fine with the curriculum there, he says. But ultimately I needed to stay close to home. He started at Merced College and then commuted to CSU Stanislaus to complete his Bachelor’s degree, which he finished in 1994.
Gonzalez has found good opportunities in the Valley using his computer skills, working first for the county, then for a game developer in Oakhurst, then for companies in the Modesto area. He’s even had opportunities and offers in the Bay Area. But he still had his sights set on something else.
When I first learned UC Merced was going to be here, that became my future, he said. I knew at some point I was going to work for the university. So I watched the Web site. I actually applied for a different job before I got this one.
Working at UC Merced provides stability, says Gonzalez, who now has a wife and a four-year-old daughter. And he gets to stay close to his family.
This is my community, he says. My home.