Aspiring student entrepreneur is here to be the change he wants to see


At Cosumnes River College, services and opportunities are available to everyone wishing to pursue a higher education.

Twenty-six-year-old Jonathan Dena currently attends CRC as a business major, with plans to transfer to UC Berkeley.

“It’s not a matter of when or how, I just know that I’m going there,” Dena said.

When he was 16, Dena was incarcerated for accessory to a crime in Santa Clara county. He served nine years.

“I was a young juvenile delinquent with no guidance, without a plan, I didn’t really have a lot of supervision at that time,” Dena said. “I was like 16 and just thinking wow, everything just turned so real, it wasn’t no fun and games anymore, out here running the streets like it’s a video game.”

Dena grew up in Sacramento and arrived at CRC the second day after his release to enroll for the fall 2017 semester.

“I knew I needed to go to school, I was already going to school in prison,” Dena said. “This is my community, this is my home.”

Dena applied for scholarships during the 2018 season and was awarded two: the Gordon P. Nguyen Schools Financial Credit Union Scholarship and Los Rios Supervisors Scholarship.

“Dena came in and saw me a couple times because he wanted to be sure he was doing the right things as far as the application process and getting the recommendations,” College Relations Specialist Elizabeth Starbuck said. “He followed through on everything.”

Business professor Lisa Marie-Mederos had Dena as a student for the 2018 Spring semester, in the class “Managing Diversity in the Workforce.” In this class, students discuss on how to manage different groups and unique characteristics in a work environment and later on, society as a whole.

“Jonathan would come to class well-prepared and having completed the readings,” Professor Marie-Mederos said. “I do think his background and what he’s gone through made him a very good asset to have in that class.”

Extended Opportunities and Services counselor Denise Marshall-Mills met Dena through the EOPS program in Spring of 2018. All students in the program are required to meet with a counselor twice every semester.

“Jonathan is a special spirit and a very kind person. The minute I first met him, it was apparent that he knew what he wanted to do with his life: he knew he wanted a college education and he knew he was worthy of one,”

Marshall-Mills said.

Marshall-Mills continued, giving her thoughts on a person’s backgrounds and what drives them.

“We show up as we are; some go down this road, some down that. I think whatever one’s past is, in particular Jon’s, it just served to motivate him even more,” Marshall-Mills said. “He’s highly motivated and focused because of the time he wasn’t in


Dena continues to attend CRC and in the future, hopes to help others who have been in similar predicaments, according to the fall 2018 issue of Los Rios magazine.

“I hate who I used to be but I understand kids who are in that predicament now, so I don’t hate them,” Dena said. “I feel so strongly about what they’re going through and who they think they are.”