2009 Scholars

Karla Burgos

Oakland High School
CSU, East Bay

I have been very fortunate to count on my parents for guidance and support. My parents left their family members in Mexico in order to provide their children with a better opportunity. It is the exception, rather than the norm, when a Latina student goes on to higher education. Despite the harsh environment that surrounds me, I have remained focused on my goals. I am determined to make college a reality. As a future leader I am committed to make a difference in my community by opening new programs to help youth with their school work and also to get them interested in going to college

“Karla is very intelligent, opinionated, motivated, hardworking, and very determined to achieve her goals. Karla is highly dependable, and always ready to learn in any capacity. Her leadership skills are outstanding”

Vincent Kanu
Teacher, Oakland High School

Shavonnee Clark

Oakland Tech

In May 2008, I violently lost my father. My father, throughout my life, has been a very encouraging and uplifting figure. My father’s murder reaffirmed the necessity to attain a quality education. During this very dark time in my life I was able to push myself and I realized that my motivation to succeed was too great to be stopped by a situation that was completely out of my control. I have realized that change starts with the individual. I plan to use my education to fix the problems in society that I am determined to escape.

“Shovonee Clark is a leader within her school. She is a role model as a senior mentor and an after school tutor. She is an activist within the community working with organizations to decrease the drop-out rate in Oakland high schools.”

Monique Adorno-Jimenez
EAOP Coordinator, UC Berkeley

Jamal Cole

CSU East Bay

I grew up in the southern part of East Oakland, where the community is very complex; it is full of hope, dreams, violence and drugs. I was involved with gangs and used to fight. As I got older I recognized that being involved with gangs was not the right thing to do. Fortunately I had heard that East Oakland Youth Development Center was hiring. I became a Youth Leader, where I was to supervise, motivate and help youth in their classes. The Center is very beneficial for me. I have learned how to be a leader, face responsibilities, and have become motivated to further my education.

“Jamal is a bright shining star from the killer corridor of East Oakland. He needs a chance to see outside of the community he was born into….and quench his thirst for knowledge in the college environment.”

Regina Jackson
Executive Director, East Oakland Youth Development Center

Luz Cuevas

Lighthouse Community Charter School
Dominican University of California

As I look at what makes me unique, I start to think about how I used to put together a puzzle of the United States when I was three years old. Over time, I started figuring out how the pieces would go together. My brain conceptualized the puzzle strategically, methodically, and mathematically. From that point on, math was my passion. Through math, I have learned how to do complex problem solving and how to confidently approach various dilemmas. These are skills that transcend well beyond the classroom. I intend on applying them to my future studies and to contribute to the community.
“ As a student, as an athlete, and as a human being, Angelica has earned my praise and admiration. Angelica is someone who is going to take learning seriously and make it matter..”

Joshua Weintraub
College Counselor, Lighthouse Community Charter High School

Ken Guerrero

Emery Secondary School
UC San Diego

My life-changing experience started in the Philippines playing tag when I was seven. My right leg was severely hurt. I was immobile unable to walk or run. I have experienced pain, quacks, motherly love, and medical specialists along with painkillers, injections, and physical therapy. Finally, I was diagnosed at UCSF medical hospital as having a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. My experiences have become a driving force behind my commitment to become a pediatrician. I can find no greater satisfaction than helping handicapped children to be able to participate with their peers in recreational activities. To relieve their pain would truly be fulfilling act.

” Ken is going to succeed in college come rain or come shine. He is unlikely to lose his sense of direction or hesitate to achieve his goals. I regard his college graduation as an inevitability. He is unfailingly reliable. I will miss him.”

David VonTerStegge
Spanish Teacher, Emeryville Unified School District

Charles Hill, Jr.

Street Academy
UC Merced

My father was killed by the police at the age of 26; he was fatally shot down after an officer mistakenly assumed he had a gun. I never let the experience destroy my life. My mother was extremely strong, always wanting the best for her children. Being the man of the house, I made sure my siblings were prepared for school and had someone to look up to. I have struggled not to become the stereotypical minority. Instead, I have become a very well educated young man, determined to better his life and make an impact on others, with my career as a surgeon.

“Since I have known him, Charles has consistently been focused on pursuing a career in the sciences, possibly as a surgeon. He has a strong sense of purpose and is focused on doing what he needs to succeed.”

Betsy Schulz
Biology/ Consulting Teacher, Street Academy

Darion Jefferson


Life to me is all about lessons. Once you’ve learned a lesson, you move to a higher level with higher difficulty, sort of like a game–except with out any restarts. I grew up living and taking notes from my mom, older sister and brother, both positive and negative. My sister is the one who kept me on track academically. Throughout my whole football career my brother always taught me that if I want it, I got to be hungry enough to go get it. The one thing that pushes me the most is when he says that I’m the family’s hope for us having better lives.

“Darion has challenged himself by taking AP Coursework, college business courses, and by making education a top priority in his life. He strives to improve his personal best.”

Marsha Rhynes
English Teacher, McClymonds – BEST

Ana Lopez

Oakland Unity
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

When I was nine years old my parents’ separation forced my mother and I to immigrate to the United States with my family. It has been eight years, and since then I have not seen or received a single phone call from my father. This has been hard for me, but it has motivated me to become someone in life and to grow more independent. One recent tragedy that helped me identify my true passion was the unexpected death of my brother-in-law. I want to become a civil engineer. I can use my knowledge to make things safer so unnecessary accidents can be stopped..

“ Over the summer, Ana attended Smith College Science and Engineering program. It was in this program that Ana truly blossomed. She was able to apply her strong work ethic and her inquisitive and tenacious nature to explore a new field.”

Shria Tomlinson
College Affairs Director, College Track

Tyrone Radford

CSU East Bay

I lived with my grandmother since I was 4. Unfortunately, my grandma had a stroke and it left her paralyzed. I helped my grandmother by cooking, cleaning, giving her medicine…. I did all of these tasks while playing sports, volunteering and still maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. My godparents push me to my full potential because they know what I am capable of. I enjoy having them in my life because I learn something new from them everyday. I want to give back to the community by starting my own summer football youth camp. I love to work with younger kids.

“He is an extremely powerful role model to young people in this community because of his athletic talents, his good-natured personality, and his intelligence and drive to succeed.”

Elizabeth Vlasses
Teacher, Castlemont — CBITS

Kristal Raheem

Fremont – CPAA
Sonoma State University

I have put all of my love and energy into education and learning. I am the only girl from my school who was admitted into the Summer Legal Fellowship program at the UC Berkeley School of Law. I learned about civil law and gained confidence about becoming a lawyer. Education is my nutrition. I will be the first child out of five to graduate high school. It’s difficult for a flower to blossom properly with damaged roots and neglect, but it is not impossible.

“Simply put, this is an exceptional young person. Kristal performed in our office at a level that I would not have expected from a high school student. Kristal has enormous potential, based on her intelligence, motivation, resilience and integrity.”

Paul Kranz
Lawyer, Law Offices of Paul Kranz

Asha Richardson

Oakland School for the Arts
Mills College

I have been writing as long as I can remember. I can not count the number of half-filled journals and sketchbooks with poetry about divorcing parents, being a little black girl and changing the world around me. Writing allows me to express all my secrets without judgment. In 11th grade I joined Youth Radio, the premier Youth Media Outlet in the country. It has taught me several key lessons: everything can be revised, a story can have multiple meanings, and my opinion is valid. I desire the ability to produce stories that can help people, create change for the better, and evoke hope for everyone.

“This student is a joy to be around. Asha’s manner of handling all of her challenges is remarkable and she is an excellent investment in leadership development for her community and the country.”

Javon-Demetrius Cogman
Dean of Student Affairs, Oakland School for the Arts

Paul Rodriguez

CSU East Bay

As an immigrant, I have faced significant challenges. During my junior year I was shot after track practice. After the cars drove away I dragged myself to nearby apartments and they called the police. My dreams of going to college often seem so far away. People discourage me but I am set on being the first person to go to college in my family and to begin a new tradition. I am living with my father. My mother is in Mexico, I have not seen her in five years. Yet, instead of focusing on this, I take control of the things I can: my education, social justice and acting.

“Unfortunately, many of our students are victims of or witnesses to violence in our community; Paul is an example of not only surviving, but of manifesting the desire to succeed.”

Fatima Ghatala
Teacher, Castlemont—EOSA


Jeffrey Scott


I am different than the statistical Black male. I dress myself as an individual. I want to stand out, not in a way that would attract negative attention, but in a way that will cause people to see that I want to become somebody. There was a specific event with a friend that made me realize that we were going in completely different directions. The words of my parents struck me, “Walking away doesn’t make you a punk”. These I was able to walk away from this situation that could have had a dangerous impact on my life. I decided to stay on the right path, the path to success.

“Jeffrey is witty, kind, analytical and humble. He is a wonderful positive role model to our younger black male students”

Johanna Paraiso
Literature Teacher, College Prep and Architecture Academy

Emely Srimoukda

Fremont-Media College Prep
CSU Chico

The only person working to support the family was my mother. As my father’s health conditions worsened, my mom lost her job along with our house. Neither of my parents speaks English, so I became their translator and was forced to leave school. When we moved from Idaho to California, I enrolled to start my junior year. I went from losing everything to becoming a leader within the school. Getting a chance to start over in California allowed me to see what is important in life. I know I am becoming the woman my mom will be proud of, but most importantly the woman I will be proud of.

“A student as bright, committed, forward-thinking, and hardworking as Emely deserves to be aided at every step of her journey toward success.”

Candice Valenzuela
English Teacher, Fremont- Media College Prep

Andrew Wilson

Ohio Wesleyan University

When I left the pristine landscape of Southwestern Academy (Arizona), the mirage of freedom, I regained my voice. When I got back home I vowed never to let the voice of students go unheard. To this day I am living up to that promise. This year I am President of All City Council and I am helping to foster positive change through policy enforcement in the Oakland Unified School District. As a result of taking this new honor and opportunity I have realized that I want to bring this drive and energy to my studies, and to my future college

“Andrew is driven by his passion to create change for Oakland youth, and takes great initiative to speak to whoever is necessary, and do whatever is necessary to accomplish a specific goal or project.”

Raquel Jimenez
Student Engagement Specialist, OUSD

Alejandro Zepeda

Lighthouse Community Charter School
University of San Francisco

Most people look at me now and assume that I got the scars from being in a fight or being stabbed. Although I have to go through life with these scars, they are an ever-present reminder of an important lesson: Appreciate the things you have, but most importantly, never stay down or give up without trying. Prior to my accident, I hadn’t given much thought into what my passions were. Now I’ve decided to prove to everyone who doubts me that I can accomplish my dreams of working in the finance industry. Regardless of what happens, I know that I will rise every time I fall.

“Alejandro Zepeda is an investment worth making. He understands the power and responsibility of being an informed citizen in our world and is clear about the role of higher education in this process.”

Drea Beale
Humanities Teacher, Lighthouse Community Charter High School