Back to School? Get the Summer Rewind

Over the Summer, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s Be A Leader – Senior Boot Camp program prepared incoming seniors for the college application process. The Senior Boot Camp provided sixty-five students with the opportunity to participate in a series of college preparation workshops that took place on a college campus. Students benefited from the program’s guidance in the college admission application process and also learned how to craft a resume, an activity that helped many of the students secure summer internships and jobs.

Selfie by comedian Ernie G. Gritzewsky with Bryan Cortes, Alejandra Gomez, Michelle Sandoval, and the students

Students participated in six group sessions and two one-on-one sessions with our project manager, Michelle Sandoval. One area of focus was on peer and professional editing of resumes as well as writing and editing the students’ college personal statements. Students received a visit from UCSB Admissions officials to discuss the UC application and how to successfully be admitted to UCSB specifically. The students received a visit from a career panel, which included comedian Ernie G. Gritzewsky and inspirational speaker Bryan Cortes. The panelists’ overall goal was to empower the students to “Be A Leader.” The students also had the opportunity to visit and explore college campuses including Pomona and Pitzer Colleges.

Julio Ornelas, the Vice President of the Be A Leader Club, said, “One thing that I learned from the Summer Boot Camp is that I can afford college with the help of grants, loans, and many scholarships.” Other students applied what they learned and had immediate results like Isaiah Avina, who landed his first summer job at Hollister following the resume writing workshop. Leanne Payan shared, “I learned how to build a resume at the Be A Leader Boot Camp.” Leanne successfully received an offer to be an intern at a law firm in Los Angeles. She spent four weeks over summer shadowing a lawyer and helping him maintain the medical records for his clients’ cases.

Now that the Be A Leader Senior Boot Camp program is a wrap, participating students will be ready to take on the challenge of completing their college applications this Fall!


A Parent’s Perspective On Generation 1st Degree Programs

Gloria Aguirre, El Rancho High School parent of senior high school student twins, Melissa and Michelle Aguirre, 17, shares with Michelle Sandoval, program lead for Generation 1st Degree programs, about her family’s college preparation experience.

Tell us about your family.

We’re a family of 6. My husband is from Zacatecas, Mexico, and is the breadwinner for our home. I’ve been a stay at home mom for the last 5 years. So in our house of 6, we have Madeline and Melissa who are 17, and 2 younger boys who are 6 and 9 years old. They’re into sports and Melissa and Madeline are into choir. Madeline is really involved in politics, and Melissa is still part of her MIT program that ends in January.

As Melissa and Madeline are applying to college, what has the process been like for you seeing them go through it?

They have always been on top of things. I’ve never really had to push them to do anything. I know that being part of Generation 1st Degree’s programs has introduced them to a lot of new things. It guides and gives them a structure. I can’t say it was me…. I can’t say it is mommy or daddy pushing them, because it was more the programs on campus. They have always had a goal since they were young and they had a vision and because they can see that, they are self-driven. So with all of the opportunities offered here at the high school it just makes things easier for them.

What opportunities from Generation 1st Degree programs have they participated in that has shaped them as they apply to college?

I remember something in particular with Madeline. She met one of the guest speakers last summer who is a lawyer. Because that is Madeline’s interest (becoming a lawyer) and hearing how the guest speaker got to her goal and how she did it really inspired her. Madeline came home and said, “Mommy, I have to do this and that….” and started listing all of the things the lawyer said. So having guest speakers come out and expose them to the professions they are interested in has really shaped and helped them continue to stay focused on what they have to do to get ready for college.

For Melissa, she’s my undercover bright little girl. She’s self-driven…they both have always had the vision so for me it’s easy to say that I really haven’t done much. They know their goals and anything that has to do with college; they are already know what to do, so all of the programs through Generation 1st Degree and Be A Leader only make it better for them. It’s part of their structure.

And for you, as a parent, what has been the biggest help or opportunity that you think you’ve been exposed to with Be A Leader and the twins’ participation in all of the college prep programs?

I think, as a parent, the girls being part Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera and being provided the tools through these programs has been the biggest help. We are so fortunate that they are able to provide those tools to our high school. I’m very grateful…beyond grateful for what they’ve done to make our life easier. Because ultimately these kids have goals and it’s not that we’re not ready as parents to help. For me, I think I’m a great mentor for them, but the structure that the programs have provided makes our life easier. The unknown is a little scary as far as where they’re going to end up for college, but ultimately, I know they’ve got las ganas and I know they have the vision and goals, and I can see them reaching high.


Meet Michelle Sandoval, Be A Leader’s New Project Manager

This month we caught up with Michelle Sandoval, Be A Leader’s new Project Manager, for an introductory Q&A.

We’re excited to welcome Michelle as part of our G1DPR family and look forward to all of our students and parents meeting her.

What is your new role with Be A Leader and G1DPR?

I am the newest Project Manager for the Be A Leader Foundation- Pico Rivera. I am responsible for overseeing the curriculum development for the Senior students in our group, to assist them in achieving their fullest potential as they complete the college application process. Additionally, my role implements and executes college-focused activities that expand into the community, such as college visits, workshops and panels.

Tell us about your background: Where did you grow up and where did you go to high school & college?

I am the proud daughter of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant parents, born and raised in a small town located in the heart of the Coachella Valley. I completed high school at Desert Hot Springs High School and, as the first college graduate in my family, received my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, with a minor in Communication, from Stanford University.

What was your college application process and college experience like? Who guided you?

The experience for me was very much like throwing a dart at a bullseye, while blindfolded. Although I was valedictorian of my class and had challenged myself extensively – for example, I had completed two courses at UC-Riverside as a Junior in high school, my position as a daughter of immigrants whose first language was Spanish, meant that I counted on my parents for the moral support to get through the college application process but was very much on my own when it came to completing the forms themselves. The guidance I received came in the form of the “can do” attitude that my parents instilled in me, which ultimately allowed for me to succeed in researching and informing myself as much about the process as I could.

What inspires you to help Be A Leader/G1DPR students be successful – what do you want our students and parents to know about the support they can receive?

The application process was one of the most stressful periods for me in my academic career. I had done everything that I possibly could to demonstrate the kind of competitive student I was; however, I felt so alone. I want my students to know that I have been there, my parents have been there, and that they do not have to do it alone just because I did. It takes a village for a child to succeed. And, we are the village that is going to support their family throughout the college process.

What are your goals for Be A Leader this first semester?

My goals are to strengthen and empower the participating Senior Boot Camp students in preparation for their college applications. Also, I would like to increase the mentorship role that the Senior students play in the lives of the underclassmen Be A Leader Club members through educational activities and visibility within the community.

What message would you like to extend to our G1DPR family – students, parents, & community?

We CAN do it. Not alone, but together. ¡Juntos podemos!