It’s been an incredible month for us here at Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera.
We were thrilled to learn that First Lady Michelle Obama, invited two of our very own G1DPR college-bound students to Washington D.C. to participate in her third annual “Beating the Odds” Summit at the White House.
My husband Gilbert, and I had the honor of accompanying our G1DPR students to this event, a first time visit to Washington D.C. for both of them and a first time for us to personally meet Mrs. Obama.
The “Beating the Odds” Summit recognizes, supports and empowers under-represented youth throughout the nation who have overcome substantial obstacles to make it to college.
The summit, which is part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative and Better Make Room campaign, allowed our El Rancho High School students, Karen Lopez and Biane Arias to join over 130 college-bound students at the White House. Students attending from across the country represented urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs, and under-represented youth who have overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to a post-secondary institution.
It was inspiring to see students participating in break-out sessions, workshops and engaging in panels led by the U.S. Department of Education, author and BridgeEdU CEO Wes Moore, and other leaders in K-12 and post-secondary education.
We’re proud to share the backgrounds of our G1DPR students who were invited to attend this selective group.
Karen Lopez is a 2016 El Rancho High School graduate who will be attending George Washington University this fall to study Political Science. She was a recipient of the G1DPR Frank Terrazas Scholarship and the Thomas & Dorothy Leavey Foundation Scholarship.
At El Rancho High School, Karen served as President of Teen Court and was a member of the Social Justice Club, Cultural Awareness Club, G1DPR Be A Leader Club, and the California Scholastic Federation (CSF).
“In addition to meeting Mrs. Obama, the highlight of the summit was being surrounded by great young leaders who have a passion for changing the world, just as I do. It was a very powerful experience,” said Karen. “One of the most helpful messages I heard was that ”you’re never alone.” It is up to me to go out there and build my own support system in order to succeed. They also emphasized not be afraid to seek help. Everyone needs help and all successful people have had help along the way. Since I will be attending George Washington University in the fall, which is a couple of blocks away from the White House, it feels great to know how many opportunities and new doors this experience is going to open up for me,” she explained.
Biane Arias, is also a 2016 El Rancho High School graduate who will be attending UC Riverside this fall, double majoring in Public Policy & Art History. She was the recipient of LULAC’s Young Latina Activist Scholarship and the ER Memorial Scholarship at El Rancho High School.
Biane served in a variety of leadership roles while at El Rancho High School including: ASB Secretary, ASB Leadership, Vice-President of Teen Court, Secretary of Leo’s Club, and a member of both the California Scholastic Federation (CSF) and the Young Senators Program. She was high school Mascot both her junior and senior years and actively volunteered at Miller Pre-School & South Ranchito Elementary, helping children with classroom activities.
“For me, it was empowering to hear Michelle Obama’s advice. She reminded us that the reason we’re here is because we have perseverance. She encouraged us by saying that if she could do it, we can all do it. I also learned that while college may be hard, we can surround ourselves with positive people and that we should seek guidance from a mentor,” said Biane. “The trip was great! I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people from all over the country at the White House,” she added.
Our deepest hope is that by continuing to offer our free college access programs through Generation 1st Degree- Pico Rivera, that many more generations of El Rancho High School, Pico Rivera students will experience exceptional opportunities such as this one.