2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a very busy yet productive year for Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera. We kicked off the new year with a visit to Washington D.C. where one of our very own G1DPR and El Rancho High School students, Bethania Perez, was inaugurated into former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room Student Advisory Council.


In April, we hosted our largest event yet, A Day in Space! This community event engaged local students and families, age 0-100, to participate in a fun, inspiring, interactive and educational event to learn about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and its application to careers in aerospace.

Emcee Kim Baldonado, a news reporter for NBC4 Southern California, lead the morning plenary discussion between NASA Astronauts José Hernández and Mark Kelly, Diana Trujillo, Mars Curiosity Mission Lead-NASA JPL and Will Pomerantz, Vice-President Special Projects, Virgin Galactic on their personal journeys to their careers in space. Following the plenary, attendees had the opportunity to participate in intimate break out sessions, including: Women in Space, Careers in Aerospace, and a Q&A with an Astronaut. Rounding out the event was an Interactive Space Fair filled with STEM-inspired exhibits from NASA AMES, NASA JPL, Los Angeles Universal Preschool, Northrup Grumman, Play-Well TEKnologies and several University and Cal State engineering representatives.

In May 2017, more than 200 ERHS senior students took the College Signing Day Pledge to continue to reach higher, as part of Mrs. Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative. During the event, I challenged the current Class of 2018 to double the number of college-bound graduates. I know you can do it!

We hosted our annual Summer College Sendoff Luncheon in June for college freshman and their parents to meet and learn from former ERHS students who are in college. Guest speakers, Justin Uribe and John Barrios, put the college experience into perspective. It was amazing to have two of our very own El Rancho students share their first-hand college reality.

And, of course, these last few months have been focused on preparing our incoming Class of 2018 for college by sending them on college campus tours, college applications and scholarship workshops, and so many other programs to ensure that their pathway to college is clear and bright.


As we close out 2017, I want to share my sincere thanks to our staff, the staff at El Rancho High School, and all of our community partners, individuals and families who continue to support Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera. It takes a strong-willed community like Pico Rivera to make change, and together we are increasing the number of college degrees in our community. Cheers to continued success in 2018!!!



Jacki Cisneros



Julio Ornelas, ABC7 “Cool Kid” & G1DPR Leader Club Vice President, on Giving Back

As a senior student, Vice President of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s Leader Club and President of the Associated Student Body, many of you have probably seen Julio Ornelas on El Rancho High School’s campus running from class to class and student body meetings. Most recently, he’s probably asked you to donate a toy as part of ERHS’ annual campaign that donates toys to the Junior Foundation Charities, a nonprofit that empowers kids with cancer.

Since his sophomore year, Julio has helped coordinate collecting toys from fellow students as part of this annual toy drive. This year, his level of activity has increased, and so has the amount of toys donated—nearly two and a half shopping carts filled with toys that will bring holiday joy to kids with cancer.


If you ever wondered what inspired Julio’s passion to help the Junior Foundation it stems back to when his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately his grandmother lost her battle to the disease this past summer, but seeing the devastating effects that cancer had on his family motivated Julio to expand the toy drive from awareness in just three class rooms to a school-wide effort.


“I’ve learned a lot about cancer through my family’s experience with my grandmother,” Julio said. “The experience made me value the little things in life that bring joy. If a toy can give that sense of joy to a child with cancer, then I am more than happy to help make that happen.”


Julio has showed tremendous leadership during this campaign and has leveraged his leadership role on college applications and for scholarships. This past month, Julio was recognized as an ABC7 “Cool Kid”. Watch the video here: http://abc7.com/society/cool-kid-julio-ornelas-collects-toys-for-children-with-cancer/2862002/


“As students look for volunteer opportunities to use in college applications, they should really think about volunteering or helping an organization that means something to them,” said Michelle Sandoval, program manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera. “Julio is a great example of a student who has discovered a way to give back to something that he’s passionate about.”


Julio’s advice to students who are looking for volunteer opportunities is to really think about the causes you care about, and then seek out ways to support organizations that are doing work with that cause. He believes it gives volunteer time more meaning instead of just a box to check off for college applications. The meaningful experiences also turn into a wealth of personal and powerful stories to share on college and scholarship essays.


“I’ve volunteered for other organizations in the past, but giving back to Junior Foundation Charities has been much more meaningful because I was really motivated to give back to children with cancer and their families,” said Ornelas. “When you volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about it not only motivates you to do more, but it makes it enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Five Steps to Scholarships

By Michelle Sandoval

Program Manager

Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera


Now that college applications are in, it’s time to focus on researching and applying for scholarships. As Jacki mentioned in the last newsletter, we all know that the costs of college can be shocking, but don’t let financial hardship prevent you from going to your dream college. There are lots of scholarships available to help supplement the costs. Here are five tips to help with the scholarship process…


  1. Create a professional email address & revisit your social media pages.


Many scholarship search engines will ask you to register and create a profile, so I encourage you to create a professional email address that you can use throughout your entire college application journey. This email address should reflect your name, an abbreviation or initials of your name, but not a nickname or obscure word, such as dodgerfan4life@gmail.com or funnygirl@gmail.com. Examples of professional emails include, MSandoval@gmail.comMichelle.Sandoval2018@gmail.com, or Sandoval.Michelle2018@gmail.com. You can add a middle initial or middle name if your name is taken.


While you’re creating a professional email for yourself, take a closer look at your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and any other public social media sites you are active on. People you communicate with, be it a school advisor, organization leader or potential employer, might take a look at your profiles. Keep them private or make sure that your posts, photos and videos are tasteful and not offensive. Regardless of whether or not you choose to keep your profile private or public, always make sure your social media profile photo is tasteful and not offensive.

  1. Apply for national, statewide and local scholarships.


A great place to start is College Greenlight, which matches your personal profile with a list of national and regional scholarships. For local scholarships, check with your campus’ College & Career Center, local media websites, and community pages. Most local scholarships tend to come from individual/family donors as well as local organizations, such as the Rotary Club, Women’s Club, Elks Lodge, and Alumni Associations.


  1. Apply to as many scholarships as possible.

Don’t fear the larger essays and don’t overlook the smaller award amounts. The top two things that increase your chances of securing several scholarship are: (1) Applying to scholarships that require more work AND (2) applying to scholarships with smaller award amounts. Why? These two types of scholarships often cause THOUSANDS of dollars to go unclaimed every year. For example, students overlook smaller scholarships because the ones with larger amounts are obviously more appealing. However, smaller scholarships tend to have fewer applicants. Remember, those “small” scholarships can be used to pay off important items such as health insurance, books and even bus passes for daily commutes. Also, those applications that require a portfolio, long essay, or additional media examples tend to be seen as more “work” by so many students that the several who do submit a completed application have a much higher chance of winning!

  1. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your College Application Content.

We all know about the benefits of recycling our used plastic, but many high school students don’t realize that they can also recycle parts of their different college application essays to use in their scholarship applications. Reduce your workload…you do not have to start from scratch. Reuse by taking a second glance at your Personal Insight Questions (used for University of California applications) or your Personal Statement (used for the Common Application) and select the parts that best reflect your personality. Recycle by mixing and matching content from different college applications if you have to, just make sure to tie them together well and make sure you’re answering the scholarship question at hand.

  1. Back to basics.

Proofread for grammar, don’t rewrite the essay prompt within your answer (they know what they’re asking you), don’t use quotes/cliché statements, double-check to make sure you have met all of the requirements, stay under the word limit, and do not wait until the last day to submit! (Technology is amazing, but a large amount of visitors on the day of the deadline might cause a website to crash).