Get to know our amazing 2017, 2016 and 2015 Education Is Forever Scholars, and please consider making a donation to help fund the 2018-19 Education Is Forever Scholarship Cohort.
2017-18 Education Is Forever Scholars
Kenny Altamirano (2nd-year scholar)
Kenny Altamirano is a graduate of CCEO YouthBuild in Lennox, who believes that YouthBuild changed his life. YouthBuild recognized his identity, his character, his potential, and his humanity and gave him the tools to be successful student. He recently graduated with his AA Degree from Los Angeles Southwest College and accepted a full ride scholarship to attend Cal State Los Angeles’s Illustration Program. He will graduate next year with his B.A.in Animation. He’s used the scholarship to pay for school supplies and to buy a car to get to and from school. He is also a graduate from Streetcraft LA and has showcased his work at several galleries and museums in Los Angeles, including: the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) at Barnsdall Park, and the SoLA Gallery. His inspiration is his mentor, Emily Bautista, and Aaron Scholl; both of these people have motivated, encouraged, and nurtured him. In Kenny’s free time, he loves to listen to music and read comic books.
Jessica Christian is a graduate of Rising Stars Business Academy in Moreno Valley. One of her favorite memories was the week after mental toughness when they all celebrated with a barbecue and music. She plans to study animal science and use her scholarship for books, school supplies, and transportation. Her mother is her inspiration because she works hard for her every day, making sure that she has all the things she needs. In addition, her mother tells her every day that she should be herself because she is unique, wonderfully made, and able to do anything she sets her mind to. In her free time, Jessica volunteers, attends church, and is a part of a step team.
Alex Cruz is a graduate of EOC Fresno Youthbuild who initially enrolled because of all the great things he’d heard about it. Alex grew to appreciate his teachers at YouthBuild because he felt like he could always count on them to provide genuine support. He is currently working toward a degree in accounting and is using his scholarship to help pay for college fees and transportation costs. Alex’s perseverance is inspired by his dad, a double leg amputee, who, with determination and hard work, learned to walk on prosthetics. In his free time, Alex likes to play basketball, draw, and spend time with his newborn child.
Amethyst Ewing is a graduate of YouthBuild Charter School’s Inglewood site at Youth Justice Coalition. A memory that stands out to her is the first community action event she ever attended. It was unlike anything she’d ever been a part of; although she didn’t know what to do at first, she loved it. Her dream is to become a licensed vocational nurse, and she used her scholarship to pay for classes at Cerro Coso Community College. Her inspiration in life is her siblings - everything she does is for them. She’ll do everything in her power to set a good example, make sure they have a better life, and show them that a person’s past doesn’t define their work. In her free time, Amethyst enjoys concerts, travel, and community activism.
Sheila Fonseca is a graduate of LA CAUSA YouthBuild in East LA. She was born in Mexico, and is a native Spanish speaker. She appreciated the YouthBuild staff-- who supported her when she needed it the most. She said that even the teachers who did not speak Spanish worked with her to help her. She noted a specific memory of a teacher who told her he would help her learn English, and she was happy to know he had her back. She is currently enrolled at East Los Angeles College, and she plans to use her scholarship on a sewing machine because she wants to study fashion design. She also plans to use funds to take ESL classes or additional art classes because she likes to draw. Her inspiration is her mother because she sees how hard her mother works every day to give her best and provide for her children, including giving them a good education and good food to eat. She hopes that one day, she can give back to her mother, so her mother can enjoy all of the things she had to sacrifice for her children. Sheila enjoys drawing and creating fashion designs in her free time.
Erick Nelson is a graduate of YouthBuild Inland Empire in San Bernardino. His favorite memory from YouthBuild was his first week. It was an exhilarating and joyful experience to be with a group of students who were all working toward the goal of their high school diploma. He plans to major in marketing or business administration and purchased a laptop with his scholarship funds. He finds inspiration in every person he comes into contact with because he believes that every person has something to teach him. In his free time, he plays (and loves!) baseball, basketball, and MMA. In addition, Erick is passionate about science and making a difference in his community.
Erick Rodriguez is a graduate from Field of Dreams Learning in Norwalk, and though he has many great memories, one in particular that stands out was a time they went camping at Big Pine. That trip was his first time camping, and he was able to build closer relationships with the staff and his peers. He plans to become an electrician and will use his scholarship on a trade school. His older brother, Juan, is his inspiration because Juan has helped to support their family since 16 and then joined the Air Force at 18. Juan showed him that they do not have to represent the struggle they’ve lived and taught him how to be a better man. In his free time, Erick enjoys paintballing, volunteering, and music.
Beatriz Velasquez is a graduate of South Los Angeles YouthBuild, which was one of the best experiences of her life. To her, all the staff are pure exemplars of love and care who are superheroes that make a difference in many young people’s lives. They are a part of her family for life. She plans to major in international business and used her scholarship toward her textbooks and book codes. Her inspiration is everyone around her because everyone and everything is an opportunity to find inspiration. In her free time, Beatriz enjoys poetry, volunteering, community activism, and learning new languages.
** Not pictured: Jairo Ortega, Anaisa Ramirez, and Jonathan Solis **
2016-17 Education Is Forever Scholars
Alina Guerra was born in El Sereno, CA and raised in El Sereno/East Los Angeles. She graduated from CÁLO YouthBuild (YouthBuild Charter’s Boyle Height’s campus) in June 2016. She is currently attending California Miramar University where she is studying Business. After earning her degree, Alina hopes attend USC to receive her Masters in Social Work. What keeps her striving is the promise she made to her grandma before she passed, which was to be the first one in the family to attend college, make it big, and get out of the struggle.
Fernanda Garcia was born and raised in South Los Angeles. She is 25 years old and currently attending Los Angeles Trade Technical College as a freshman. She graduated and obtained her high school diploma from YouthBuild Charter School of California's South LA site at CRCD. She is proud to be the first in her family to obtain a high school diploma and enroll in college. Although her major is currently undecided, Fernanda knows she wants to be in a field that allows her to help others somehow. What keeps her going is the passion to become educated because she knows that with an education she can have a better future. She is happy to be surrounded by people who support her and motivate her to give it her all, so that she can obtain her degree.
Saul Castano is 18 years old and was born and raised in South Los Angeles. He is a graduate of YouthBuild Charter School's South LA campus at All People's Community Center. Saul is currently attending Abraham Friedman Occupational Center where he is taking a Graphic Design class. While enrolled at YouthBuild Charter, Saul participated in CODEchella, where he learned how to code in HTML and CSS. After completing his class at Friedman, Saul plans to enroll at Los Angeles City College and eventually transfer to UCLA for Graphic Design and Animation. He chose those fields of study because he finds it amazing how people can create different worlds and experiences with computer technology.
Jose "Niko" Salas
Niko Salas was born in Compton and raised in Inglewood and Lennox, CA. After coming out during his freshman year of high school, Niko experienced animosity at home, causing him to lose focus on school and his future. After three years of struggling to find stable housing and working jobs that were going nowhere, Niko found CCEO YouthBuild in Lennox. At YouthBuild, Niko was afforded many opportunities and grew into a natural leader. He graduated as Salutatorian of his program in 2013. After graduating from YouthBuild, Niko served for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at YouthBuild Charter, where he was in charge of alumni relations. He currently works for CCEO YouthBuild. Niko also serves on the YouthBuild California State Alumni Council, which aims to encourage alumni and future graduates to take leadership roles in their communities by developing voices and action for change. He is currently attending El Camino College and hopes to one day become a director of his own YouthBuild program.
Kenny Altamirano is from Gardena/Inglewood, CA and graduated from YouthBuild Charter School of California in 2011. A recipient of the Janis Matero Art Scholarship, Kenny is currently attending Los Angeles Southwest College and has only six more credits to complete before he plans to transfer to a four-year university to continue his studies in Art. His interest in art began at the age of seventeen, when he realized art was a way he could express himself. Art has impacted his life because it helps through tough times and releases stress. Although he has natural artistic talent, he likes that he can further develop his skills as an artist by taking more formal art courses in college. Kenny plans to eventually further his education by obtaining his MFA, so that he can teach as a professor in community college. He wants to be able to teach the history of art and the power of art. Kenny was the first person in his family to graduate high school and attend community college. He is glad that the Education Is Forever Scholarship Program is helping him make his educational dreams and vision into reality.
Francisco Martines is a 2015 graduate of YouthBuild Charter School of California's Inglewood site at the Youth Justice Coalition. He is currently studying Sociology at Santa Monica College. He hopes to become a probation officer to help youth like himself who were locked up and dealt with substance abuse (he is almost two years sober now). Francisco wants to change the juvenile justice system from the inside out and help youth that are system impacted to attend college, achieve their dreams, and make a difference in their own community. He recognizes that there aren't many Chicanos that want to be a probation officers, and he wants to inspire youth to find their identity and their voice so that they can be someone important. At SMC, Francisco serves as Vice President of the Homeboy & Homegirls Club and also created a substance abuse program there for students. He continues to work with the Youth Justice Coalition and participates in a men's circle group there where he helps other young people. Additionally, he works with Operation Street Kids alongside his mentor Jojo Sanchez. Francisco is also a member of the LA Brown Berets.
Amber Duron is a 2016 graduate of CÁLO YouthBuild (YouthBuild Charter School's Boyle Heights campus.) While at YouthBuild, Amber won the Resilience Award, the Student Mother Award, the Outstanding Attendance Award, and the Little Steve Jobs Award at CODEchella, where she also earned a Certificate of Achievement for 40 hours of web design in HTML, CSS and Java. She also has a fantastic motivator-- her daughter. Amber enrolled at YouthBuild just two weeks after giving birth to her daughter, and it changed her whole perspective on life. Amber is currently attending East Los Angles College, where she is studying Computer Science. After completing her Associate's, she hopes to transfer to the USC Viterbi School for Engineering and continue her studies in Computer Programming/ Computer Science. Amber likes computer programming because it involves dealing with challenging problems. Amber's mother always told her, "If you love your job it's not a job," and that's how Amber feels about programming.
Jennifer Sacayon is a 2016 graduate of YouthBuild Charter School's South LA campus at All People's Community Center. She is currently enrolled at Santa Monica College, where she is studying Chemistry. After she receive's her Associate's, she plans to continue her studies in Chemistry at UCLA or Pepperdine and eventually get her Doctorate. Jennifer credits her love of chemistry to having an amazing chemistry teacher who taught the subject in a way that was easy to understand. After her teacher brought up the fact that chemists got paid well, Jennifer decided to look into the job more and realized it would be perfect since she could make good money and have fun doing it. Jennifer also loves makeup and realized majoring in chemistry could land her a job working for makeup companies where she could formulate new products. Jennifer thanks YouthBuild for helping her overcome her lack of ambition and pushing her to do things out of her comfort-zone. According to Jennifer, "Once I found the confidence I needed, I kept pushing and pushing to better my work as a student. Because I am a strong leader now, I can advocate for myself, which comes in handy in college. With the life skills and traits I received from YouthBuild, failure is just a mindset that I have dropped and replaced with optimism and industriousness."
Aura Xec is a 2015 graduate of YouthBuild Charter School's South LA campus at All People's Community Center. She is currently studying Humanities at Pasadena City College. Her dream is to become a social worker. After she completes her AA, she hopes to transfer to New York University to finish her Bachelor's degree and eventually earn her Masters in Social Work. Helping others has always been a lifetime goal of Aura's. At a very young age her mom taught her that it was better to give than to receive. "There were many careers I could have chosen," Aura says, "but social work has a very special place in my life." Aura would like to give back to children who need help because she had a tough childhood herself. Separated from her parents at the age of 8, Aura and her siblings lived in Guatemala while her parents moved to the U.S. to try to support them. "Growing up I decided that if I were to make it to college, I would want to become someone who helps children. I want to help kids the way someone should have helped my siblings and me. If I want to graduate college, I know I will need so much support because I will be the first person in my family to ever take this path."
Griselda Martinez is a 2016 graduate of LA CAUSA YouthBuild (YouthBuild Charter's East L.A. campus.) She currently attends East Los Angeles College, where she is studying Psychology. The daughter of immigrants, Griselda grew up in a very tough neighborhood in East L.A., where she witnessed on a daily basis kids getting jumped by other kids that were involved with gangs. Weekends were filled with the sounds of gunshots, and Griselda's parents never let her go out and play with friends. Griselda was excited to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. After she completes her Associate's, Griselda plans to transfer to Cal State LA and major in Criminal Justice. Her goals and aspirations in life are to get a career (not just a job), own her own car, live in a nice home, build a family, and live a good life. "I know that in life the only way you can be successful is through education," Griselda says. "It’s never too late to fix your mistakes and refocus on your education."
2015-16 Education Is Forever Scholars
Candelaria Renteria was born and raised in East LA, CA. She currently attends Los Angeles Trade Tech College and is finishing up her General Ed Classes. She would like to transfer to Cal State Dominguez Hills and major in Public Administration because she likes working with a non-profit organization that helps young people succeed in life. She is inspired by all staff at Compton YouthBuild because they have supported her in any way they could and they motivated her to do better in life. In her free time, she spends the day with her daughter playing games, reading, and coloring books.
Natalie Pinedo was born and raised in the city of East Los Angeles. She recently moved to the city of Paramount about one year and a half ago. She will be attending Cerritos College in the Fall of 2015, and she is interested in studying and majoring in Sociology because her dream job is to work in the Probation Field as a Probation Officer. Her mother inspires her the most because she's a very strong woman who never gives up on what she wants. No matter what it is, her mother will strive for it and continue to work towards it until she has it. That's what motivates Natalie most; her mother shows her that nothing is impossible. In her free time, she helps her mom take care of her little sisters. For fun, she can be found at the movies, at the beach with her family, or just simply spending time with them.
Brian Blandon has lived all his life in Los Angeles, CA. He attends Los Angeles Trade Tech College and is in the welding program. Further on, he would like to become an engineer. The person who inspires him to go further is his mother; she’s taught him to persevere through thick and thin because she raised six kids on her own. In his spare time, he likes to enjoy his days exercising and playing basketball, baseball, or soccer.
Michael Laredo was born and raised just east of LAX airport in Lennox, CA. Currently, he attends El Camino College in Torrance and he is majoring in welding with aspirations of working in the aerospace industry. He has always expressed interest in technical things, such as designing parts, taking measurements, cutting pieces, and working on projects with his hands. Mr. Laredo passes by SpaceX everyday on his bus ride to school which keeps him focused on why he studies. His admiration for space exploration, which is made possible through human invention, is what inspires him to be part of that mission. Michael hopes to one day have his welds on the surface of Mars. When free time is available, Michael enjoys reading random articles on various topics such as nuclear fission and how heat and light is made in our sun as well as watching documentaries and tv shows like Cosmos.
Edgar M. Gonzalez was born in Michoacan, Mexico but migrated to LA as a child seeking a better life. He currently attends Santa Monica City College and hopes to major in Political Science and become a politician. He also hopes to transfer to UCLA soon. He wants to change the world for the better and help the proletariat. He is inspired by socialism and his one-year-old daughter. He is a full time McDonald's employee and organizer with the Fight for $15 LA campaign and SEIU 721. In his free time, he likes to record and produce music or attend political events.
Gloria Carrasco was born in San Fernando,CA and was raised most of her life in Inglewood,CA. She is currently enrolled at El Camino College and is planning to major in Cosmetology as a short-term goal and Fashion Design as a long-term goal. She wants to use these careers to help and impact lives by exposing the true potential behind the beauty of it all. Her inspirations have also come from her teacher Ms.Julia and her advocate Ms.Maria because they have guided her to turn into this strong women she is becoming to help her succed towards her future. In her free time she likes to re/create art, spend quality time with her loved ones and loves to take pictures/videos of her travels!
Sanjay Stoney was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He will attend El Camino College in the fall of 2015, so that he can study and prepare himself to be a registered nurse. His dream job is to work in a hospital and help patients overcome illness and get them back on their feet. The person who inspires him is his mother because she is always supportive of what he does, and she knows that he always puts one hundred percent in the tasks he needs to accomplish. He also cannot forget his YouthBuild family, which motivates him to become a better person. In his spare time, he read books and hangs out with his friends at the mall or theatre.
Tylor S. Sewell is a current student at Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC). He is from Los Angeles, CA. He is currently studying Real Estate, and his dream job is to become an investor because he is interested in business administration. He is inspired by himself and by his son. His son gives him hope. In his free time, he likes to watch sports, listen to music, and play with his son.