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.


Pathway to College Starts in Kindergarten

As a child, reading topped my mom’s list of priorities. Every evening she would read to me and if she was away, my grandparents or my aunt would step in to make sure that this important part of my evening routine was filled. When I turned 8 or 9 years old, we started taking turns reading to each other. During dinner or on car rides home, my mom would ask me what I thought about a character or what she missed in the last chapter. I realize now that as an educator it was her sneaky way of making sure I was doing my required 30 minutes of daily reading and, more importantly, that I was comprehending what I was reading. It was a tradition I cherished and practice with my own children.

The week of October 24th marks our 5th Kindergarten Book Giveaway, an annual event that was inspired by my mom, who through her 40 years of work in education, has seen the important benefits of children who were read to at an early age. This year we’re giving approximately 800 Pico Rivera kindergarten students a bag each filled with 10 books. At each school assembly, we empower the students to carve out a well-lit space in their home and build their very own literacy library. We also encourage parents to read with their child and stress the impact it makes in their child’s academic future and parent-child bond.

But this event has a more significant meaning that extends beyond receiving books. It gives us an opportunity to highlight how important it is for children to maintain, and hopefully surpass, their required reading level by third grade. This milestone is a huge benchmark as research shows that students who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. And if poverty is a factor, then studies show a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.*

While Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera has established successful college access programs at the high school level, we realize the importance reading comprehension is at every grade-school level. As such, our vision extends beyond the immediate smile of a 6-year-old student receiving a bag full of new books today, to a young adult receiving his or her college diploma in the future.

*American Educational Research Association, 2011


Going the Extra Mile

By Karen Lopez

*We are so proud of Karen and look forward to hearing back from her as she makes her way to and through George Washington University!

G1DPR gave me the resources and encouragement I needed when I was in the process of applying to a selective school. The program pushed me to apply to schools a little out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, schools that were a perfect match. There were various times where the stress took a hold of me, and G1DPR was there to help on a personal level as well.

Getting accepted to a selective institution has always been a dream of mine. To my family and I, having the privilege of attending a selective institution means success; education is a core value within my family. Moving on to the next chapter in my life and knowing that I will prosper in a challenging environment, while having great resources at hand, make my family proud.

To those on the path of applying to a selective institution, make sure to use all the resources available, take any opportunity given to you, and always go the extra mile. When you make the most out of something, you get the most out of it.