Welcome Back to School from Jacki Cisneros

We’re only about month into the new school year, yet I feel like we’ve accomplished so much in preparing the 2018 graduating class for college.  In addition to the workshops G1DPR held over the summer, our Program Manager, Michelle Sandoval has already managed to squeeze in a College 101 workshop for parents and students. Additionally, I worked with several board members and volunteers to assemble hundreds of book bags for our upcoming annual Kindergarten Book Giveaway. This will be our sixth year of giving away 10 books to EVERY Pico Rivera kindergarten student.  It’s crazy to think that our inaugural “Book giveaway class” are now 5th graders…WOW!

Jacki at the 6th Annual Kinder Book Giveaway at Lawrence T. Magee Elementary School in Pico Rivera.

We are looking forward to hosting a ton of great events and workshops this year.  Of course our main focus is to deliver on our mission of a Pico Rivera college graduate in every home. With that in mind, we decided to combine two programs at El Rancho High School, Be A Leader and Senior Boot Camp, to the “Leader Program.” The Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera Leader Program will continue to offer college-prep workshops, campus visits and other opportunities that support and prepare our Pico Rivera graduates to become successful college students and future leaders.

I want to personally wish all of our community a year filled with academic success.


Jacki Cisneros

What Parents Need to Know to Support their Child’s Pathway to College

By Michelle Sandoval, Leader Program Manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera

If you’re a parent of a graduating senior student, you may start to notice a different type of energy coming from your child as he or she begins to prepare for the college application process. It’s an exciting and stressful time for families because there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of new information to learn.

I recently held two workshops—one for parents and one for students—to help each of these groups gain a better understanding of what’s to come and what to expect over the next few months. To help keep parents “in the know,” I’ve created a summary of important topics to keep in mind as they support their child’s pathway to college.

1. Scholarships. It is never too early to start looking for scholarships. While the concept of scholarships during Senior year is much more traditional, scholarships for underclassmen start in the form of “Fly-in” programs (see Daniel’s story in this newsletter for more on “Fly-ins”). For students from low-income households, “Fly-in” programs tend to cover transportation and housing while visiting the college campus. Spots for these tend to be highly competitive because of the individualized attention they provide to selected students. College Greenlight provides an overview of what these programs look like and the application deadlines.

2. Community Service Hours. It is highly important to continue completing community service hours and not stop just because it is Senior year. A lot of students tend to stop because they get caught up in Senior year events or think that the hours won’t be weighed as heavily as community service they completed in previous years. But showing commitment is very important when being considered for college acceptances to UCs and Private colleges, so I encourage students to keep volunteering.

3. How many college applications should we submit? All students should apply to at least 10 schools, including a combination of Cal State Universities, University of California schools (if eligible with a minimum A-G GPA of 3.0) and private universities. While privates tend to be more costly in comparison to the other two options, surprisingly, they can be even more affordable once financial aid is factored in. The difference in financial aid that students THINK they will receive usually stops them from applying; however, if they don’t apply to the college, they won’t know if they’re accepted. And, if they are not applying, they won’t ever know how much financial aid they truly would have received. SO APPLY! APPLY! APPLY!

4. Cal State vs. UC. Cal State Universities and UCs (unlike private universities, which tend to look at the overall GPA from ALL 4 years) use what we call an A-G GPA to determine eligibility and admissions. This GPA may be different from what we see on the transcript because it only includes core courses and does not account for a lot of “fun” classes such as electives. So, we have to ask for help from a counselor to manually calculate it before we apply!

One thing to note is it’s never too early to get involved with the process. I encourage parents of sophomores and juniors to be mindful of these topics, as well. And if you’re ever in doubt or need more information, please join one of our workshops or feel free to email me at michelleg1dpr@gmail.com.

G1DPR and El Rancho High School Alum Bethania Perez moving into UCSD with the help of her parents.

College “Fly In” Program Part 1: Caminos al Futuro at George Washington University

In this two-part series, we speak with El Rancho High School students who were selected to participate in college “Fly In” programs this past summer.

College “Fly In” programs are designed to provide qualifying students a chance to experience college life, often out of state. Many “Fly In” programs are offered at no cost, and include travel expenses, room and board, and enrollment into a leadership or diversity program.

This month we spoke to Daniel Castañeda, a senior ERHS student, to learn about his experience with the Caminos al Futuro, a fully-funded “Fly In” summer program at George Washington (GW) University. This program that is part of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute sponsored by GW alumnus Gilbert Cisneros and his wife, Jacki Cisneros, founder of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera.

Tell us about the program.
The Caminos al Futuro Program at George Washington University is a leadership program that connects students with successful Latinos, such as Representative Ruben Kihuen. We learned about the Latin X Community, the types of challenges we face as Latinos, and participated in college preparation workshops and opportunities to improve our writing skills.

Tell us about the application process?
I worked with Michelle Sandoval, the program manager at Generation 1st Degree, to get the pieces of the application submitted. In addition to the application, you have to submit a letter of recommendation. Then there’s a selection process. It felt amazing to be accepted!

This program was 3 weeks long and far way from home in Washington, D.C. Tell us about your travel experience.
I was scared because this was not only my first time traveling alone but also my first time traveling out of state. I was afraid I wouldn’t get along with the other students, wouldn’t connect with anyone, or that there would be a tragic disaster. It was a long flight and when I arrived it took a long time for my luggage to arrive. Apparently, other students had already connected through an app, which I learned about later. Once I got to the Mt. Vernon campus and checked into my dorm, I felt liberated. I was fascinated by the whole idea of living on campus and experiencing it.

How did your parents feel about you traveling away?
My mom was scared and did not want me to do it. She thought I wouldn’t be able to handle another state without her. But I reassured her that I could find my way.

What were the top 3 takeaways from the experience?
The biggest takeaway was the college experience. It changed my goals . Before this experience I was only planning to apply to California schools, but now I want to apply for more out of state colleges.

The second takeaway would be the friendships I gained . I didn’t think that we would keep in touch once the program ended, but we still do.

The third takeaway was the leadership confidence I developed. I was much more introverted and didn’t really like to put myself out there, but now I use my voice and take advantage that I have a voice and an opinion.

What would you say to students who are not considering applying to out of state colleges?
I would tell them to get out of their comfort zone because there are endless possibilities. Staying close to home may feel nice and safe, but it’s not always good to feel comfortable. I would tell them to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I could actually do it. I didn’t think I could go out alone, but I did it and now I want to go back.

If you could share one message with your fellow Dons about the program and the experience, what would it be?
Do not have a negative mindset of not being good enough. If you have a dream or goal to travel across the country to attend any school or Ivy League, you must be driven to pursue that dream. Do not allow money or negativity from preventing you from following your dreams!

In the next issue featuring Part 2, we will hear from ERHS senior Lara Roman and her experience with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute.

Daniel’s College “Fly In” Discoveries
1. It changed my goals.
2. I gained new friendships.
3. I’ve developed leadership confidence.