Students Represent G1DPR at White House Summit

It’s been an incredible month for us here at Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera.

We were thrilled to learn that First Lady Michelle Obama, invited two of our very own G1DPR college-bound students to Washington D.C. to participate in her third annual “Beating the Odds” Summit at the White House.

My husband Gilbert, and I had the honor of accompanying our G1DPR students to this event, a first time visit to Washington D.C. for both of them and a first time for us to personally meet Mrs. Obama.

The “Beating the Odds” Summit recognizes, supports and empowers under-represented youth throughout the nation who have overcome substantial obstacles to make it to college.

The summit, which is part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative and Better Make Room campaign, allowed our El Rancho High School students, Karen Lopez and Biane Arias to join over 130 college-bound students at the White House. Students attending from across the country represented urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs, and under-represented youth who have overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to a post-secondary institution.

It was inspiring to see students participating in break-out sessions, workshops and engaging in panels led by the U.S. Department of Education, author and BridgeEdU CEO Wes Moore, and other leaders in K-12 and post-secondary education.

We’re proud to share the backgrounds of our G1DPR students who were invited to attend this selective group.

Karen Lopez is a 2016 El Rancho High School graduate who will be attending George Washington University this fall to study Political Science. She was a recipient of the G1DPR Frank Terrazas Scholarship and the Thomas & Dorothy Leavey Foundation Scholarship.

At El Rancho High School, Karen served as President of Teen Court and was a member of the Social Justice Club, Cultural Awareness Club, G1DPR Be A Leader Club, and the California Scholastic Federation (CSF).

“In addition to meeting Mrs. Obama, the highlight of the summit was being surrounded by great young leaders who have a passion for changing the world, just as I do. It was a very powerful experience,” said Karen. “One of the most helpful messages I heard was that ”you’re never alone.” It is up to me to go out there and build my own support system in order to succeed. They also emphasized not be afraid to seek help. Everyone needs help and all successful people have had help along the way. Since I will be attending George Washington University in the fall, which is a couple of blocks away from the White House, it feels great to know how many opportunities and new doors this experience is going to open up for me,” she explained.

Biane Arias, is also a 2016 El Rancho High School graduate who will be attending UC Riverside this fall, double majoring in Public Policy & Art History. She was the recipient of LULAC’s Young Latina Activist Scholarship and the ER Memorial Scholarship at El Rancho High School.

Biane served in a variety of leadership roles while at El Rancho High School including: ASB Secretary, ASB Leadership, Vice-President of Teen Court, Secretary of Leo’s Club, and a member of both the California Scholastic Federation (CSF) and the Young Senators Program. She was high school Mascot both her junior and senior years and actively volunteered at Miller Pre-School & South Ranchito Elementary, helping children with classroom activities.

“For me, it was empowering to hear Michelle Obama’s advice. She reminded us that the reason we’re here is because we have perseverance. She encouraged us by saying that if she could do it, we can all do it. I also learned that while college may be hard, we can surround ourselves with positive people and that we should seek guidance from a mentor,” said Biane. “The trip was great! I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people from all over the country at the White House,” she added.

Our deepest hope is that by continuing to offer our free college access programs through Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera, that many more generations of El Rancho High School, Pico Rivera students will experience exceptional opportunities such as this one.






Reaping a College Harvest

This summer, our students had the opportunity to experience the benefits of last winter’s Senior Boot Camp Fundraising Campaign.

Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera’s first fundraising efforts raised $10K last December. This personal commitment and generosity allowed 65 students to attend the Be A Leader Senior Boot Camp this June and July.

With your gracious help, our students have spent the summer applying to colleges and universities, preparing for ACT and SAT exams, and completing scholarship and financial aid applications.

The array of topics covered are helping to inform and enrich our students’ college application journey. “We’ve covered a little of everything. We’re working on creating a College and Career Portfolio that will help them through the application process. So every workshop has been focused around a part of the portfolio. This includes: Personal Statements for the UC application, Personal Essays for the Common Application, resumes, cover letters, professional email etiquette, descriptions for activities and community service, recommendation letters, and helping them prepare to apply for scholarships and for taking either the SAT or ACT,” explained Be A Leader Project Manager, Alma Renteria.

One of the highlights of the Senior Boot Camp is that G1DPR students have the opportunity to go on college visits or “College Exploration Days,” with the program. This summer, students visited colleges throughout the state, including: CSULA, UCLA, SDSU and UCSD.

“The benefits of the College Exploration Days are definitely exposure. Many of our students, if not the majority, have had very minimal exposure to college campuses and are afraid of applying in the fall to schools they’ve never visited. Through campus visits, students get that first-hand experience at being on a campus. They also get to decide whether or not they are interested in applying to those schools after all. Overall, it allows them to explore new options they wouldn’t have otherwise considered,” said Renteria.

Each season that passes by, we get closer to our ultimate goal of having a college degree in every Pico Rivera home. Your support in our first G1DPR fundraiser means so much to us. Thank you for standing behind our students and we promise to continue sharing their success stories as our journey with them continues.



A Thriving Bruin

By Carmen Toscano

As a first-generation college student, I had no idea what the college process was about. I felt lost in how to start the process in my junior and senior year of high school. Thankfully, I was rescued by the many programs of Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera (G1DPR). Through G1DPR’s programs, such as The College Blueprint and Be a Leader, I chose the perfect fit for me by exploring the many majors and college campuses.

One key and important aspect was that I was having help in writing phenomenal personal statements and applications that got me accepted into many colleges. Without the help of G1DPR, I would not be as successful as I am now.

Currently, I have successfully completed my first year of college at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I am double majoring in history and political science and aspire to become a successful lawyer, concentrating on immigration.

The first year at UCLA was challenging because of its extremely competitive atmosphere. Additionally, I found myself completely alone due to the intense culture shock. I was sad to leave my home where I knew everyone and felt comfortable. However, I pushed through the competitive and unfamiliar atmosphere, by attending study sessions and constantly asking my professors for help during their office hours.

I ultimately broke out of my shell and began earning straight A’s, which has been one of my proudest accomplishments at UCLA. I thank Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera with all my heart for helping me chase my dreams and bringing me one step closer to being successful and achieving my dreams.