The #BetterMakeRoom Takeover

By: Monica Ochoa — G1DPR Alum & Notre Dame University Sophomore

There’s a saying that goes like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And that’s just what Better Make Room is doing as they’ve partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, to spread the message about the Better Make Room campaign that’s directed at Generation Z (14-19 year olds).

The Better Make Room campaign was created to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and give students the tools they need to reach higher for college. It highlights the possibility of a better education, a better career, and a better future. It also ensures that young people understand the steps, tools and resources available to help them Reach Higher, such as registering for the SAT and ACT, visiting a college campus, filling out FAFSA, and completing at least four college applications.

This month, I took over Better Make Room’s Twitter for a week– here’s what this incredible opportunity showed me.

Better Make Room is empowering as it reaches thousands of aspiring and current college students around the country. It’s all about sharing students’ experiences with others in the hopes of motivating them to pursue an education and lead a successful life.

I immediately felt a personal connection with many of the students sharing on the Better Make Room social media sites. So many of them have been through similar experiences that I’ve been through.

Personally, I love to share my story and help others. Whether it’s about the process of applying to college, financial aid or just sharing a motivating phrase. Having the opportunity and privilege to be a part of Better Make Room allowed me to do what I love – at an even greater magnitude than I ever imagined.

It was such a great experience to see people react positively to my posts. I felt that my voice was being heard around the country. The most valuable lesson I learned in doing this is to remember that I can help others reach the point where I’m at today.

Some students really just need a couple of words of encouragement to hit those ‘Submit’ buttons on their college applications. As a current college student, I feel a responsibility to help students understand that it’s more than worth it to reach for their dreams.

As my fellow El Rancho High School Dons head back to school, I say this: Always keep your goals in mind and fight for them, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. The phrase, “After every storm, there is a rainbow” really is true, no matter how insignificant it may sound. So keep going. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

I understand that applying for colleges and scholarships can be strenuous, but I promise everyone that an education is absolutely worth it. Don’t stop until you reach your goals, even if it takes one try or a hundred tries.

As I travel back to Notre Dame University for my sophomore year, I can tell you that the reason it’s important for me to still be a part of G1DPR is because I love my community. I love where I come from and I want every single student in Pico Rivera to go to college and have the same opportunities I’ve had. We’re not alone in the struggles we face. I was in your same exact position just a couple of years ago and if I can continue on to college, so can you!

For more information, please go to BetterMakeRoom.org


The Class of 2017 has the ”Write” Stuff to Apply to College

By: Marla Kelley, Director of Communications – The College Blueprint

What a great outcome we’ve had this year. El Rancho High School’s Class of 2017 joined The College Blueprint this summer for our highly anticipated summer essay program.

The students spent the three days of the program in the essay workshop, brainstorming one on one with their coaches, then writing, editing and finalizing their personal statements. In addition, our College Counselor Tavy Tung-Murphy and College Counselor and Academic Coach, Sahar Zandi, worked with them on finalizing their college lists, and provided them information on the application process and on financial aid and scholarship resources.

In total we worked with 40 students this summer. Our group of students grasped the writing process very quickly. They did so well that I will be adding them to my collection of El Rancho stories and will be using them as future examples.

Our returning essay coach was Jordan Kelley – this was his third year in this program and he always says it is his favorite and that it’s the most rewarding. He leaves with the stories of these students embedded in his heart.

New essay coaches to the program this year were Gabrielle Elias and Sheila Silver. They both brought some amazing talent. Gabrielle is a 2015 graduate with a degree in English from Cal Berkeley and Sheila Silver is a retired English teacher and former California Teacher of the Year. They were touched by the stories and loved the enthusiasm of these students.

The summer days went by quickly. As we were still working on the last essays right up till the last day it felt a little anticlimactic when we said goodbye. As always, we felt close to the students we worked with and we’re looking forward to following up with them to learn where they decide to finally apply and where they get accepted.

There is something very special about the El Rancho kids and this group was no different. All in all, I think the experience was well received by everyone; the students left with a list and a personal statement and a lot of optimism about the application process!

I remain honored to be a part of this program, which I hold near and dear to my heart; I truly appreciate the opportunity to work with El Rancho High School’s rising seniors each year. Having already met the enthusiastic, standing-room-only members of the class of 2018, I’m guessing next summer’s program will prove equally rewarding.


Making UC San Diego Home

By: Janeth Castellanos – G1DPR Alum & UCSD Sophomore

During my college application process, I received continuous support from G1DPR programs. With the help of the Cisneros’ mentorship, the Be A Leader Senior Bootcamp, and The College Blueprint, I was given the essential preparation to get accepted into several colleges.

As a first generation college student, I was unsure how to approach my personal statements. Thankfully, many of these programs helped in both guiding and revising my drafts. Some of my drafts were even revised by college representatives themselves.

In addition, G1DPR taught me different educational components that would eventually set me apart from other students, such as community service. Thus, they offered us a volunteer opportunity in which we helped distribute school supplies to children from low- income families. My volunteer work not only benefited other families, I also was able to use this service as an example of the volunteer work I did on my college applications.

The most challenging part of my first year at UC San Diego was the competitive nature I found in each class. Unlike high school where most students end up familiarizing themselves and connecting with their classmates, in a challenging class with over 200 students, everyone is too focused on trying to learn the context. Socializing was definitely not a priority. This made college seem lonesome.

I recalled the G1DPR counselors always encouraging us to become active within the college community so that college would seem more intimate and friendly. As a result, I decided to join various study groups which both helped me find my classes less challenging and less competitive because of the newly acquired friends.

With the tools that the G1DPR programs have given me, I have completed my freshman year in college. Thanks to the confidence I have gained from G1DPR, my ultimate goal is to graduate from UC San Diego and eventually become a healthcare scientist.