Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera – A Year in Review

With each year that goes by, we gain more momentum in fulfilling Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s mission of reaching one college degree in every Pico Rivera household. This year seemed to have gone by fast and we have much to reflect on and celebrate.


We began 2018 with another one of our students being recognized by ABC7’s “Cool Kids.” Julio Ornelas, who collected toys for children with cancer, was featured on the Los Angeles news station’s segment that highlights students who are making a difference in their community.

We held our first G1DPR club meeting for the class of 2019—this is the time and place where students discuss how they are going to dominate the college admissions process in the coming year. We also hosted workshops for the graduating class of 2018, which focused on topics to keep our students well prepared to ace exams in college, financial management and more.

Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera

In February, Julio Ornelas received news that he was awarded a Coca-Cola Scholarship, becoming the first student from Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera to be named a Coca-Cola Scholar!

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday in March, I participated in Read Across America as a VIP reader. I’ve always believed that reading is the foundation to student success in school, so it was an honor to participate in this national event.

As Spring break rolled around, students made their way north for our annual Northern California college campus tours. The first stop was Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, followed by Notre Dame de Namur University, Stanford University, The West Coast Ivy, San Francisco State University, San Jose State University and UC Santa Cruz. The group also had an opportunity to make a quick stop to Fisherman’s Wharf!

In May, we participated in Better Make Room’s College Signing Day—a nationwide event that was launched by Former First Lady Michelle Obama that asks the many first-generation high school graduating students to take a pledge to higher education.


The Class of 2018 walked the graduation stage in June, and by July we celebrated our graduates at our Summer Send Off Luncheon. Students were matched with college alumni for a round of Q&As.  Parents were also invited so they could ask questions about college life and feel more at ease about sending their child away to college. And I had a lot of fun raffling off fun prizes from computer printers to microwaves and toilet paper and other fun college survival necessities!

Summers don’t slow down for this group. In July, Michelle Sandoval, our program director, lead several workshops for class of 2019 members. During the month of July, students participated in workshops focused on personal statement, college application, resumes, practice interviews and more.

Once school was in full session by September, club meetings were back on track. September’s meeting had a huge turnout—a testament that the work we do with the students at El Rancho High School is sought after and appreciated.


To close out the year, were two very special events. In October, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera and its volunteers came 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.

And just last month, through the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation’s partnership with Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room, we were able to offer an opportunity for our G1DPR students to attend Mrs. Obama’s “Becoming” Book Tour at the Forum in Los Angeles.

As we close out 2018, I want to express gratitude to the students, their parents, staff and faculty at El Rancho High School, our program director, Michelle Sandoval; and our partners for helping us continue to provide experiences that influence and encourage our Pico Rivera youth to aim for higher education.


Wishing everyone a Happy 2019!



Jacki Cisneros