Celeste Noriega (2021)
Lynwood High School

Giving Back: Celeste spends parts of her summer participating in Mastering Hope where is helps with the distribution of food, PPE, hygienic items, toys, cash to families in need.

Looking Forward: Celeste is on her way to Stanford with a goal to work in criminal justice as a prosecutor in the hopes of lowering the severity of sentences. She specifically plans to focus on those in marginalized communities who are most impacted by harsh sentencing.

Peter Tawfik (2021)
Ocean View High School

Giving Back: Peter volunteers teaching STEM to underprivileged students and is President of Engineering the Community Club.

Looking Forward: Peter wants to change the world by developing a car company called “Future” that would have revolutionary technology while still being cost-efficient to all socioeconomic classes.

Fun Fact/Unusual Talent: In addition to excelling at engineering, Peter is also an artist and submitted his drawings.

Khedija Shafi (2021)
Susan Miller Dorsey High School

Giving Back: Khedija was a lead student organizer in a campaign that drew national attention and a major victory chipping away at a critical piece of the School To Prison Pipeline. She led students from across the city in strategy meetings, spoke at the school board, and press conferences demanding for more resources and increased support system for Black Youth.

Looking Forward: Khedija aspires to become an epidemiologist in order to help control the spread of HIV/AIDS and address the orphanage crisis in Ethiopia.

Fun Fact/Unusual Talent: Khedija did not speak English when her family moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia three years ago. She joined Mock Trial to be immersed in the language, and at the time was the only non-English speaking person in the group; as a senior, she is now the group’s captain.

Keegan Fleigner (2021)
Pacifica Christian High School

Giving Back: Keegan has known since the first grade that he has the developmental disorder Autism. He has used this diagnosis as an opportunity to give back and is the Creator, Host & Writer of the “Sports on the Spectrum” Podcast which features athletes and coaches with mental/developmental health issues to discuss how sports has been life changing. He himself has been interviewed by VoyageLA which covers inspiring stories in Los Angeles.

Looking Forward: Keegan plans to study data science and apply that data collection and analysis to further research on Autism.

Fun Fact/Unusual Talent: Keegan began running 5K races at age 10 and at age 16 became Long Beach Grand Prix 5K’s youngest winner ever, beating 1000+ runners.

Sharon Kim (2021)
Arnold O. Beckman High School

Giving Back: Sharon is the Founder of Born Again Bottles and We Recycle Together to raise awareness of environmental issues. Proceeds go to the food ministry at her church and children in Togo and Ghana through Compassion International.

Looking Forward: Sharon hopes to become a researcher and clinical psychologist to help those beset by mental disorders.

Christian Del Carmen (2021)
Oak Grove High School

Giving Back: Christian served at the Santa Teresa Public Library and was a member of the Kaiser Permanente Summer Youth Career Pathways Program.

Looking Forward: Having had to deal with a severe health issues himself, it is Christian’s goal to become a surgeon as he is passionate about helping others and seeing them survive and thrive.

Rita Zamora Quiroz (2021)
Salinas High School

Giving Back: Rita volunteers at the Food Bank and with young adults at Rancho Cielo.

Looking Forward: After completing her studies, Rita aspires to return to her community and be a voice for the obstacles facing its members. She hopes by her support and example, she can give community members tools of empowerment to face their challenges.

Hannah Soca (2021)
Dikaios Christian Academy

Giving Back: An accomplished violinist, Hannah plays at nursing homes during the holidays.

Looking Forward: Hannah will be attending Old Dominion University to continue her violin studies.

Reuben Philip (2021)
San Mateo High School

Giving Back: Reuben teaches martial arts at the studio where he earned his black belt. He is known for being a passionate and empathic instructor who has built a strong community of students that he teaches and coaches.

Looking Forward: Reuben will be attending Chico State University this fall.

Marco Flamenco (2020)
Lynwood High School
Career Goal: History Teacher

Being an undocumented student brings many challenges. The first hurdle Marco had to overcome was to teach himself English, which he did by reading books and repeating dialogues from movies. As the first person in his family to go beyond a high school education, Marco then had to overcome his family’s and teachers’ reluctance when applying to universities. Despite these barriers, along with financial hardship, Marco has flourished. He has taken over eleven community college classes, earned two Associate level Certifications from Solidworks, became certified as a Mechanical Engineering Design Technician from Cerritos College, immersed himself in the Project Lead the Way Engineering program, and developed his leadership in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In addition, he displays his leadership through his desire to mentor younger students experiencing hardship due to citizenship status and low-socioeconomic background. In a surprising twist, Marco has recently discovered a love for history and is interested in exploring a career as a teacher. Whether as an engineer or a teacher – or both – Marco is determined to break his family’s cycle of hard labor and poverty, and he has shown the resilience and determination to do so.

Christy Alvarez (2020)
Lynwood High School
Career Goal: Business Management

Christy comes from a single-parent household and has grown up in difficult financial circumstances. Her mother came from Mexico to make a better life, and as an only child, Christy’s support network has been small. Christy knew that as the only child, and because her mom did not speak English and was always working, many things would fall upon her, and she is the one who opened the family’s first bank account, did their taxes, paid the bills, as well as took on many of the household chores. Part of Christy’s drive to succeed is so that she can give her mom who has sacrificed so much a better life. Despite her circumstances, Christy has maintained an over 4.0 GPA and is in the top 10% of her class. With great excitement she took on her first job at McDonald’s, and in less than a year McDonald’s has identified her as a team leader and has offered her the chance to be part of their management training program. This experience has sparked an interest in taking business courses in college. Christy is passionate about breaking the negative stereotypes regarding the lack of higher education among the Hispanic/Latinix population, and to this end, she has mentored and helped many of her peers. 

Stephanie Hernandez Hijar (2019)
Animo Leadership Charter High School
Career Goal: Pediatric Nursing

At the age of 16 Stephanie’s stepfather left her family, thrusting her into a new role as her mother now had to work two jobs to support the family. After leaving school at 4:30 pm, Stephanie then takes care of her six younger siblings, cleans the house and makes dinner, after which she then picks up her mom from work at 10:30 pm; only then is she able to do her homework from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am. This is her schedule Monday through Friday. And yet Stephanie is determined to work hard to be a role model to her siblings with the hopes of giving her mom and them a better life. Instead of breaking her, this challenge has made her realize her strength and perseverance. Stephanie also discovered a passion for serving others, and in addition to her school and homelife responsibilities, she dedicates her time to community projects and mentoring younger students.

Naidelyn Ramirez (2019)
Lynwood High School
Career Goal: Criminal Justice/FBI

After a traumatic incident, Naidelyn found herself under extreme stress and suffering depression, manifesting in her grades declining and her lack of participation in her favorite activities such as reading, taking piano lessons, and learning Japanese. Realizing this was a turning point, and in showing grit and resourcefulness she sought help to address her mental health. In talking to a school therapist, she has learned coping skills and has begun the return to her old self. She has started to avidly read books again and named “The Book Thief” as one of her recent favorites. Naidelyn has also taken on a leadership role for the United Dreamers Club which is dedicated to creating scholarships for undocumented students. When she was told by her club that they would not have enough money for scholarships, she took the lead and developed a method for students to quickly make money and helped the group raise over a thousand dollars.

Arlet Elizalde (2019)
Manual Arts High School
Career Goal: Social Work/Therapist

Immigrating to the U.S. with her grandmother was a difficult process and became more challenging when her grandmother left and Arlet went under the care of her mother. Her home life with her mother was unstable, and encounters with police officers and social workers became the norm. At age 14, she began working to afford the basic necessities of food and toiletries that were not provided for her at home. While this story is not uncommon, many students end up getting lost in the system; however, Arlet has decided to be successful, to graduate, and to go on to college. She has become more resilient, mature, organized and resourceful as a result of her prior difficult circumstances. Arlet maintains a high GPA while participating in Magnet Senate and swim team, as well as assisting her peers with college applications. Now living with a supportive family, Arlet continues to work on her mental health as she works towards her dreams.

Angel Delgado (2019)
Lynwood High School
Career Goal: Journalism and Business/Entrepreneur

Angel comes from a single-parent household and is a leader in his family taking care of his younger siblings and supporting his mother. Despite not having much time to focus on his academics early in high school, Angel turned himself around during his junior and senior years. With hopes to be the first one in his family to go to college, Angel goes to the College & Career Center almost daily to seek college resources and receive help on his college essays and applications. He is also involved in United Dreamers, a club that advocates for undocumented students. Growing up in Lynwood has made Angel realize that the city lacks attractions for young people in the community, and one of his dreams is to open an arcade so that kids like him can have a place to go.

Linda Diaz (2019)
Nava College Preparatory Academy
Career Goal: OB-GYN

That afternoon while Linda patiently awaited the results of her MRI, she had no idea that her world was about to turn upside down. She had assumed the pain she felt in her side was the result of a fall she had taken during cheer practice, but she would soon learn from her doctor that at age 13, she had an ovarian cyst the size of an orange. After surgery she spent time in the hospital and witnessed children younger than her fighting for their lives and yet maintaining positive outlooks. This experience changed the course of her life. From someone who had been careless, depressed, and not paid much attention to her future, she resolved to live with gratitude and purpose. Linda began to realize the possibilities, her power, and the road ahead of her as she works towards her goal of becoming an OB-GYN. In addition to her studies, Linda made a full recovery and was able to go back to cheering and became cheer captain.

Cecilia Ulloa (2019)
Van Nuys High School
Career Goal: Filmmaker

Middle School proved to be years of poor choices for Cecilia. Hanging with the wrong crowd manifested in terrible grades and eventually led to her losing the faith of her parents. This was the low point for Cecilia. But in 10th grade, fate put her in an automotive class, and with the help of that teacher, she turned her life around. She learned about the importance of her life, matured, and began to dream of opportunities. Soon Cecilia was presented with them, and started to pursue her interests in automotive and filmmaking, resulting in a summer internship as a technician at Keyes Mercedes-Benz and winning the bronze medal for Best Director and Best Short Film at Skills USA. Even better, she has regained the trust of her parents and family.

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