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He’s Going to College, and Amazon is Paying His Tuition



Marvin Cifuentes with his three kids. Amazon is paying his college tuition. (GV Wire/Randy Reed)
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Check out my other School Zone columns at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

Marvin Cifuentes has tried in the past to enroll in college but then had to drop out because of family needs or was stymied by financial barriers. But Cifuentes is now enrolled at Clovis Community College, and he might be a bit glad he waited.

Cifuentes, now 32 and the father of three kids ages 6, 10, and 14, is an employee of Amazon, which is providing free tuition and book vouchers for students at more than 140 colleges and universities across the nation, including Clovis Community, Fresno State, Cal State Stanislaus, and Modesto Junior College, through its $1.2 billion Career Choice program.

Amazon employees are eligible to participate in the program after 90 days of employment. Part-time employees can get half of their tuition covered, and full-timers get 100% of their tuition paid for. In addition to college degrees, employees can work toward trade certification, high school completion, and English language proficiency.

Cifuentes, who now works on the safety team at Amazon’s FAT 1 Fulfillment Center, said he’s not worried about balancing work and life, since Amazon has committed to scheduling his work time to accommodate his class schedule. He’s starting with just one course, English, so he can ramp up his academic career gradually.

He was always planning to go to college but had worried about how he could afford it.

“That’s been one of my fears going back to school, am I going to have to get in debt, pull out loans?” he said. “But in the end of the day, like I said, my goal is just to finish my way through school. And again, with Amazon providing this opportunity, it definitely relieves a lot of that stress. I mean, maybe later on along the line I might have to pull out some loans, but that’s further along, maybe pursuing a master’s or something.”

Also in School Zone: 

  • Clovis Veterans Memorial District hosts military education conference for youth “influencers.”
  • These businesses are recognized for their contributions to education.
  • Unions endorse a Fresno High Area 5 trustee candidate.
  • Fresno State and Fresno Chaffee Zoo announce partnership.

Missing from the list of college partners is Fresno City College, the region’s oldest and biggest community college.

“Career Choice has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators,” spokeswoman Natalie Wolfrom explained in an email. “We want to ensure our employees are set up for success for the next step in their career, so we choose partners that are focused on helping our employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success. Our schools offer additional services such as career coaching, resume writing and job placement support.”

Military, Educators to Connect at Clovis Conference

Youth “influencers” such as teachers, guidance counselors, and coaches are invited to the Saturday, March 12, Central Valley Influencers Conference at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, 808 4th St.

The goal of the conference is to bridge the civilian/military divide and provide information about different education paths, including service academy scholarships, that are available through the military.

Although “influencers” are the target of the March 12 conference, students and their parents also are welcome, said Lorenzo Rios, the district’s CEO. Rios said organizers are planning for a follow-up conference that will be designed specifically for students and parents.

All branches of the service academies will be on hand, including the Merchant Marines that are making their first appearance in the Valley, Rios said.

Service academy appointments come through congressional offices, and the conference is designed to make the general public more aware of the military options open to students, he said.

The conference is free, but attendees are asked to register.

Rios said organizers hope the conference will become an annual event.

Clovis Veterans Memorial District will host a conference is to bridge the civilian/military divide and provide information about different education paths for students on Saturday, March 12, 2022. (visitfresnocounty.org)

Fresno Compact Lauds Business-Education Award Winners

Ten businesses are winners of the Fresno Compact Business-Education Partnership awards for their work in support of schools and education efforts.

In addition, outgoing Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino will be awarded the Dr. Harold Haak Award for Educational Excellence for Building Business/Education Partnerships.

The 10 businesses are:

  • Affordable Housing Development Corp.
  • Allen Farms
  • Blue Dolphin Design Engineering
  • Chevron North America Exploration & Production Co.
  • Engineered Industrial Products, Inc.
  • Fence Line Media
  • LH Farm Service, LLC
  • Maiorino Family Farms
  • Mooneyham Physical Therapy
  • UCSF Fresno

The Fresno Compact is a partnership of committed leaders from businesses, education, government, and the community who support education from preschool through higher education, workforce development and economic growth in Fresno County.

The honorees will be recognized at a luncheon from 11:30 am to 1 p.m. April 27 at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. To purchase tickets, call (559) 265-3010.

More Union Endorsements for Candidate Levine

Andy Levine, one of four candidates running in the April 12 special election for the Fresno High Area 5 trustee seat on the Fresno Unified School Board, is solidifying his support from local labor unions.

The Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO announced last week that it is endorsing Levine.

“Professor Levine is a local educator, community leader, and Fresno Unified graduate. His connection to education is authentic and he is both a great leader and listener. The students, parents, and workers of Fresno Unified will be well represented by Andy’s passion and dedication to improving student outcomes. Our Labor Council is proud to endorse him for trustee,” Dillon Savory, executive director of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said in a news release.

Levine, who teaches part-time at Fresno State, previously won the endorsement of the Fresno Teachers Association.

The other three candidates are retired teacher Russ Allen, retired firefighter Andrew Fabela, and retired parole administrator Daniel Renteria. The special election was scheduled after longtime Trustee Carol Mills lost her battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease last July. The winner will serve the remainder of Mills’ term through November 2024.

Fresno State and Fresno Chaffee Zoo Sign Partnership

Fresno State students will have more internship options at Fresno Chaffee Zoo thanks to a new partnership that the university and zoo signed on Friday.

In addition, the two pledged to create other opportunities to benefit the university, the zoo, and the Fresno community, such as programs for conservation, science, diversity, innovation, and community building; forums to exchange technical knowledge between staffs; and cooperative programs “to identify and mitigate issues of access, equity and social and environmental justice in the Central Valley.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email