The #BetterMakeRoom Takeover

By: Monica Ochoa — G1DPR Alum & Notre Dame University Sophomore

There’s a saying that goes like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And that’s just what Better Make Room is doing as they’ve partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, to spread the message about the Better Make Room campaign that’s directed at Generation Z (14-19 year olds).

The Better Make Room campaign was created to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and give students the tools they need to reach higher for college. It highlights the possibility of a better education, a better career, and a better future. It also ensures that young people understand the steps, tools and resources available to help them Reach Higher, such as registering for the SAT and ACT, visiting a college campus, filling out FAFSA, and completing at least four college applications.

This month, I took over Better Make Room’s Twitter for a week– here’s what this incredible opportunity showed me.

Better Make Room is empowering as it reaches thousands of aspiring and current college students around the country. It’s all about sharing students’ experiences with others in the hopes of motivating them to pursue an education and lead a successful life.

I immediately felt a personal connection with many of the students sharing on the Better Make Room social media sites. So many of them have been through similar experiences that I’ve been through.

Personally, I love to share my story and help others. Whether it’s about the process of applying to college, financial aid or just sharing a motivating phrase. Having the opportunity and privilege to be a part of Better Make Room allowed me to do what I love – at an even greater magnitude than I ever imagined.

It was such a great experience to see people react positively to my posts. I felt that my voice was being heard around the country. The most valuable lesson I learned in doing this is to remember that I can help others reach the point where I’m at today.

Some students really just need a couple of words of encouragement to hit those ‘Submit’ buttons on their college applications. As a current college student, I feel a responsibility to help students understand that it’s more than worth it to reach for their dreams.

As my fellow El Rancho High School Dons head back to school, I say this: Always keep your goals in mind and fight for them, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. The phrase, “After every storm, there is a rainbow” really is true, no matter how insignificant it may sound. So keep going. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

I understand that applying for colleges and scholarships can be strenuous, but I promise everyone that an education is absolutely worth it. Don’t stop until you reach your goals, even if it takes one try or a hundred tries.

As I travel back to Notre Dame University for my sophomore year, I can tell you that the reason it’s important for me to still be a part of G1DPR is because I love my community. I love where I come from and I want every single student in Pico Rivera to go to college and have the same opportunities I’ve had. We’re not alone in the struggles we face. I was in your same exact position just a couple of years ago and if I can continue on to college, so can you!

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They’re College Bound – Our 4th Annual College Summer Send-Off Luncheon

We’ve got great reason to celebrate this June.

Earlier this month we held our 4th Annual College Summer Send-Off Luncheon. Our luncheon honors our G1DPR graduating and college bound students at El Rancho High School. This event both celebrates this major milestone in our students’ lives and helps to connect these soon-to-be college freshmen with other El Rancho High alumni and university graduates. By bringing them together, they can exchange real world information and college bound students learn what to expect in their upcoming collegiate life.

We were incredibly happy to meet our G1DPR students’ families and celebrate their graduations and accomplishments. It was an excellent afternoon filled with support from friends, families, the school district and the Pico Rivera community as a whole. Not to mention great conversations, fun and lots of great prizes.

The most poignant moments for me were listening to our G1DPR alumni, John Luke Barrios and Monica Ochoa. They both spoke of the challenges they faced as college freshmen, sharing that they both had initial feelings of not belonging on their campuses. Coming from working class family backgrounds, there was much to assimilate to but they have both persevered.

John Luke, a recent Yale University graduate, shared this with our current G1DPR students: “Don’t ever second guess yourself. I spent far too much time my first year at school thinking about how I wasn’t good enough, instead of what strengths I brought to my school. I wish I’d focused on this more. So remember, you’re worthy. We are so proud of you. You’re worthy and you are here for a reason.”

Monica, a sophomore at Notre Dame University, spoke to students about leaning on her parents for support by calling home every week and receiving a multitude of encouragement from them, especially her mom. Her involvement on the university campus has helped her to thrive. She became very involved in several student led Latino groups and even began leading her student group during “Misa,” or Mass, at The Basilica of the Sacred Heart every Sunday. She shared words of encouragement with our G1DPR students. “You’ll soon be talking to people from different backgrounds and places, cultures and languages. You’ll be amazed by all the people you meet there,” she said.

We thank our G1DPR alumni for sharing their college experiences and we applaud the efforts of our current G1DPR students who are staying the course and participating in our college access programs. Thanks to you, each year we get closer to our mission of having a college degree in every Pico Rivera home.