College Tips from Summer Send Off

By Jacki Cisneros

Each year, we host a Summer Send Off where graduating students for Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera are invited to a luncheon to hear guest speakers share their knowledge and experience as first-generation college students. Parents are also invited so they too can listen and ask questions about college life.

If you’re a rising college freshman and you didn’t get a chance to make it to this event, you missed out on inspiring speeches by two G1DPR alum, Monica Ochoa and Melissa Aguirre, as well as a chance to win raffle prizes like a computer, printer, mini refrigerator, microwave, money and more.

During the luncheon, I also presented my college tips. Whether or not your staying within the area, moving hours or states away, all of these tips will help you to survive your freshman year of college.

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Get involved on campus. Find your niche of people who have common backgrounds or interests. You’re looking for that group of people who will support you. It may take a few attempts to find your group, but don’t give up because once you do, I guarantee they will be your friends for life.
  2. Visit your professors during their office hours. Introduce yourself and let them know who you are. If you’re struggling, let them know what you need help with. While keeping a good relationship with your professor might not translate to an A, they will see your determination and help you out. They are there for you. Here’s how I look at it: College is expensive and the price we’re paying is for the services the professors are hired to provide, which is educate students. Go in with the mindset that your professors work for you. If you do not understand the curriculum, then they are not doing their job. Challenge them to figure out a way to help you understand. If you change your attitude it’ll power you.
  3. Get help before it’s too late. If you’re at a C in college you’re closer to a D than you are to a B. Get help ASAP.
  4. Remember you belong where you are. The admissions office has a process to determine which students would be a great fit for the school. They saw that you belong there and that’s why you were accepted. So even if you feel overwhelmed and doubt your ability to be successful at that college, know that it’s part of the process.
  5. Finally, Call your parents. Set a day and time – maybe Sunday evening. Your parents may not have a reference point of college and what it is like. Sometimes their source of information is what they see on the news about college campuses and that could make them worry. Update them regularly. Keep them involved with your journey. Share your experiences.

My final message is a heavy one, but one I feel I must put in words: “No” means NO! Be smart about where you go and whom you go with. Never walk alone. Text a friend or roommate to let them know your whereabouts and what time you’ll be back. Victims are all sizes, shapes, colors and gender. Keep yourself safe.

Gilbert and I want to wish the entire incoming college freshman a successful first year of college. Know that we are always here for support or as a resource, so don’t be a stranger.



Jacki Cisneros






Put Fear Aside, Becoming Extraordinary Takes Calculated Risks

By Monica Ochoa, Mechanical Systems Design and Analysis Engineer, The Boeing Company

This regular girl who grew up playing AYSO soccer at Smith Park, eating Yogurtland at the town center, who attended Magee Elementary, Burke Middle and El Rancho High School graduated from her dream university and now works at her dream job.

When I look back to when I graduated from El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, I didn’t realize all the challenges I would be faced with in the coming years, not to mention all the growing I would do as well. The summer after graduating high school, I began at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN as an Aerospace Engineering major and as a first-generation college student. Moving to a brand new state and being in a completely new environment was an opportunity for me to extend my boundaries out of Pico.  Most of my high school counterparts stayed relatively close to home; however, I knew that if I wanted to not only do well, but excel in my career, then I would have to take calculated risks, the first being open to moving and becoming independent.

My four years at Notre Dame were the most challenging years of my life, as I struggled with adjusting to a different climate, both environmentally and socially. I failed countless times, but the important thing is I never lost focus of my dream for a better future. My parents were my strongest supporters, as they always reminded me that even though I came from a different place than most students there, I was just as capable and intelligent as them. I began to get involved in different activities around campus, including being on the Notre Dame Rocket Team (NDRT), participating in La Misa en Español, helping Latinx Campus Ministry and being a part of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. My largest involvement was with NDRT, and that is where I really found my passion for the space industry. The proudest moments of my undergrad career were winning the Altitude Award in the NASA Student Launch Competition and being elected as the captain of the 75 members on the team my senior year.

During the spring semester of my senior year, I was presented with an opportunity to interview for a full-time position at The Boeing Company. Thanks to the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation, I was able to become very involved with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and through their conferences I was fortunate enough to receive interview skills and training. On that front, I felt very prepared going into my interviews. Also thanks to the Cisneros Foundation, I was able to make a connection that led to my two years of interning at the City of Pico Rivera Engineering Department. Those years of experience prepared me for the technical qualities the job at Boeing required. Along with the help of my fantastic education at the University of Notre Dame, I landed my dream job with The Boeing Company.

I did it. I graduated from my dream school with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and I decided to take another calculated risk in moving to Huntsville, AL to begin my dream job with The Boeing Company. Moving to a different state for college was difficult, but I knew it was temporary. Moving to a different state for a full-time job, was even more difficult because there isn’t a definitive end in sight. The thing is, after looking at so many of my role models, I’ve come to see that people who take risks even when they’re scared don’t become just ordinary people; they become extraordinary people. They’re the people that make a difference and impact their community, their industry and in some cases, even the world. I believe that every kid with a dream should strive to not be ordinary, to be extraordinary and take some risks, even when you’re scared of the unknown.


Today I am a Mechanical Systems Design and Analysis Engineer at The Boeing Company in Huntsville, AL. I work on the Space Launch System, which is a project for NASA with the goal of putting the first humans on Mars. I plan on beginning a Master of Engineering program next fall and in the future, would like to work towards a Master of Business Administration. I’d like to apply to be an astronaut one day and help lead the aerospace industry in space exploration. Aside from my technical career, I would like to begin my own scholarship foundation in honor of my parents and help Pico Rivera students attend college, just as the Cisneros and so many other people have helped me along the way.

I will never forget where I come from, and I know that I will always think back to the amazing community of support I have at the City of Pico Rivera. I hope every parent, student, community resident who reads this can see that if a regular girl from the south side of Pico can achieve her dreams, anyone else can too. Si se puede!

Annual Summer Send Off a Success!

Every year, Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros, co-founders of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera, host an annual event called the “Summer Send Off”. The event was designed to provide incoming freshmen and their parents an opportunity to hear from G1DPR alumni on their college experience.

The event starts off with a fun mixer that helps “break the ice” between freshman and college alum. This year, after lunch was served, former El Rancho High School students and G1DPR alumni, Monica Ochoa (class of 2014) and Melissa Aguirre (class of 2017) presented on their experiences and college tips. Following their inspiring speeches, Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros also provided their words of wisdom.


Another highlight of the event is the raffle prizes. Each student is entered for a chance to win prizes ranging from Top Ramen and toilet paper to laptops, printers, microwaves, mini refrigerators, gift cards and more! Students who were lucky enough to win are heading to college with one less thing to purchase off their back to school list.


If you’re a rising senior, DO NOT miss out on this event next summer! It’s an opportunity to ask questions from former DONS and win great prizes!