Adam Gray is a true son of Merced County, having graduated from Golden Valley High School (1996) and earned his credits at Merced College before transferring to UC Santa Barbara and graduating there in 2000. Now Gray is making his professional mark on behalf of Merced County and much of Stanislaus County while serving in the State Assembly since his election in 2012.

Like many young people coming out of high school, Gray admits to having no plan about his future after his days as a Golden Valley Cougar and working at the family dairy supply business loading feed bags. But after finishing college, he found his calling after joining then-Assemblymember Dennis Cardoza’s staff to work on agricultural issues and also lecturing at UC Merced. Throughout over a decade of work as a legislative aide, he learned how to finesse legislation important to the Central Valley through to passage. It gave him a boost into his current gig representing California’s 21st Assembly District.

Here Gray sheds a little light on how Merced College became the connective tissue between his life growing up in town and his professional life as a major player in California state politics.

Why did you decide to attend Merced College?

“It was important to me that I limited the debt I was going to incur. I think that is a concern for many high school graduates and their families. Merced College afforded me the opportunity to work while in school, without accumulating debt.”

What was your career plan when you came to the College? Did you even have a plan?

“I did not have one.”

What was the best non-academic moment at Merced College?

“I met some great people while at Merced College who are still my friends, today — going on 20 years!”

What was the biggest lesson you learned during your time here?

“Attending Merced College was one of the best decisions that I have made. The professors were committed to my success, the school was affordable, and the schedule allowed me to work my way through school. Merced College opened big doors of opportunity for me.”

Finish this sentence: Without Merced College I wouldn't be . . .

“ . . . where I am today.”

I am going to put you in charge of producing a commercial pushing the College to incoming freshmen. What is your message?

“Exceptional community colleges like Merced College are the backbone of California’s world-class higher education system. You are entering college at an exciting time—recently, California waived enrollment fees and tuition for first-time students, making college more accessible than ever. Whether your ultimate goal is to transfer and continue your education, receive high-quality job training, or become certified in a particular skill set, you will find a home at Merced College.”