G1DPR Speaker Series Launch – An Astronomical Welcome to a NASA Giant

We kicked off 2016 by welcoming Engineer and NASA Astronaut, Jose Hernandez, as Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera’s inaugural Latino-Student Empowerment Speaker at El Rancho High School.

From students and parents, to teachers and city officials, to heads of colleges and universities, we came together to embrace Jose’s message to our students; that anything is possible if you create a map of where you want to go, study hard and always give more of yourself than what people expect.

When Gilbert and I thought of ways to inspire our youth on their road to college, we concluded, what better way than to create a forum that highlights prominent and successful Latinos who have graduated from college and whom can share their personal stories of perseverance with them. This is just the initial spark of a series of speakers we’ll be connecting with this year.

Jose shared his incredible story of growing up, one of four children, in a migrant farming family that would travel yearly between Northern California and Mexico. After his 2nd grade teacher suggested to his parents that they consider settling in one location so that Jose and his siblings could focus on their education, the family settled in Stockton, California. Jose would go on to receive his education at the University of the Pacific and UCSB, and in 2009, fly into space as a NASA Astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

He passionately shared his four stages for reaching a goal:

  • “First, decide what you want to be in life and meet those minimum requirements, get that college degree.
  • Second, look at other people who are already there. What attributes do they have that you don’t have?
  • Third, rise above the competition. You’ve got to distinguish yourself.
  • Finally, never, ever give up on yourselves. It wasn’t easy for me. NASA told me no, eleven times. It wasn’t until the twelfth time that I finally got selected as a NASA astronaut. That’s perseverance,” he said.

We’re very grateful for his visit and can’t wait to see what else is in store for students as we continue with our speaker series this year!


The Early Bird Get’s the Grant!

It’s the season to apply for student federal financial aid. With important deadlines fast approaching, we’d like to walk you through some of the most common questions students have when applying for financial aid.

What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that is prepared annually by current or prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate), in the U.S., to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

When are the deadlines to apply?

Federal deadline:

The 2016-2017 FAFSA opened for submissions on January 1st and the deadline to apply is June 30, 2017.

State deadline:

Here, in California, the FAFSA cut off for most state aid is March 2, 2016.

College deadlines:

Be sure to check with each of the colleges that you’re interested in attending to ask about their specific college financial aid deadlines.

Where can I apply?


When should I apply?

Since the FAFSA will determine what type of funding you will be eligible for, the sooner you apply after the January 1st opening, the better.

Need based financial aid, including grants, loans and work-study programs, are limited and are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Maximize the amount you can receive by applying now and always consider scholarships and grants first, as you won’t have to pay them back.

What information do I need to apply?

The FAFSA asks for similar information of that required when you file your taxes.

You and your parents/guardians will need to gather the following information:

– Your social security number

– Your alien registration number (if not a U.S. citizen)

– Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2’s, & other records of money earned

– Bank statements and records of investment (if applicable)

– Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

– An FSA ID to sign your application electronically. You can sign up for an FSA ID at:


– If you currently don’t have your tax information, you can give estimates and then make corrections once you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Where can I get help filling out my application?

You can find free tools when you visit the “Getting Help” section on the following page: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out

Also, don’t hesitate to visit the College and Career Center on the ERHS campus with any financial aid questions.

Good luck and happy applying!

The Chance to Soar

by Monica Ochoa, Sophomore at the University of Notre Dame

As the time to make my college decisions approached in 2014, the financial aspect was a huge factor in deciding where I’d be able to attend. The College and Career Center at El Rancho High School did an excellent job of providing great resources for students, like myself, who are the first in their family to attend college. One of the most impacting resources they offered me was the opportunity to apply to the Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera Scholarship provided by Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros.

It is with strong certainty that I say that receiving this scholarship has played a huge role in why I am currently at my dream school today, University of Notre Dame. This scholarship allowed me to break the financial barrier of attending a private four-year university. Not only has Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera blessed me financially, but it has also blessed me in an inspiring way.

Recently, I was able to meet my role model, NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez, through Mrs. Cisneros’ new forum called the Latino-Student Empowerment Speaker Series. It is because of programs like this that first-generation college students are able to attend our dream schools and become successful Latinos.

Today, I am a sophomore Aerospace Engineering major at the Notre Dame. My ultimate career goal is one that, at times, felt like a pipe dream until last week when I met Astronaut Hernandez. I hope to work as an engineer for NASA one day and ultimately become an astronaut. Everything is possible as long as one keeps saying, “Sí se puede!”