Key to College Starts With Reading

By Jacki Cisneros

Many studies have shown the benefits of reading to early learners as young as infants. Reading to a young child helps build vocabulary, comprehension, speech and social skills. Each year Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera and its volunteers come together to donate 10 books to every kindergarten student in Pico Rivera—typically over 800 books in all! It’s a fun event that gets our future college grads excited about reading and starting or adding to their own personal library at home.

Many of us may think that reading with a younger child is something typically done with a parent or teacher. However, older siblings also play an important role in demonstrating the importance of reading and comprehension, and this goes for all younger siblings—from babies to teens. Children often look up to and want to imitate older teens and young adults. Think back to when you were in grade school and the role models you looked up to.

If you have a love for reading, why not share it! Remember that colleges are always looking for students that have contributed something unique to the community through volunteerism, leadership or academic achievement. What better way to demonstrate your commitment to education then to become a role model for literacy. It can be as simple as researching and selecting themed books with a sibling. For high school students who don’t have a younger sibling, consider becoming a volunteer at a local school or preschool, or lead a book club or meet up at your local library for younger students in your neighborhood.

As you continue to build your needs for college and scholarship opportunities, don’t forget to think about the little contributions you can make in your home or in your community that could be used as a learning experience and build your character. Document your “aha” moments and think about how the experience has changed you. Every experience will help you tell a great story in colleges and scholarship essays.

Jacki Cisneros

Apply Yourself and Don’t Doubt Your Acceptance

Maggie Grisco, a senior at ERHS, has a pretty impressive academic resume. She’s been in Academic Student Body (ASB) since her freshman year and served as freshman president. She continued to participate in student leadership roles as a sophomore, served as the Technology Commissioner in her junior year, played water polo and maintained her academic commitments. As junior year came to an end, she knew she wanted to further her leadership skills, so she sought out and applied for a summer program with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute at USC.


We had a chance to talk to Maggie about her experience this past July and this is what she had to say:


How did you learn about the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute opportunity?

I was aware of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and was looking at their website. When I saw that there was an opportunity to apply for the leadership summer program at USC, I applied for it. I was originally waitlisted, but eventually got in and attended this past July 26-29.


Tell us about the three days you spent at the Youth Leadership Institute:

On the first day, we settled into the dorms and took a tour of the campus. After that, our schedules were pretty jam-packed with workshops that covered everything from the college process, financial aid, college terminology and more. We also had a chance to meet with college admissions counselors—the ones who read everyone’s college applications—who gave us some insight and tips. There were also guest speakers, such as business owners, lawyers, an actor and more, all of whom shared with us their journey to their careers and are regarded as Hispanic “superstars.”


What was your most memorable part?

I remember thinking that I was surrounded by a lot of really smart people, such as valedictorians, students who started their own clubs or organizations, student tutors and more. There was a moment when I really felt overwhelmed and that I didn’t belong there. But as we went through the workshops, I really began to understand that I did belong. One speaker even confirmed with all of us and said, “Don’t feel like you don’t belong here. There were so many applicants and there are 100 of you who were selected.” Hearing those words made me feel happy and unafraid. I met some really great people that I learned so much from. It was really moving and at times, we were teary eyed.


How has that experience changed our outlook?

The experience made me realize that I should be more competitive, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to apply to bigger schools or fear rejection. One of the guest speakers was rejected by all but one college and was really happy with that outcome. I know that wherever I go, I was chosen to be there by the admissions office and I’m going to be happy.


What were some of the overall messages that you would like to share with your fellow DONS?

There’s a reason why we get accepted to certain colleges and programs, and when we do get there don’t feel like you are less than the others or scared. There’s something unique that you bring to the college or program. Make friends, learn and grow from it.