2012 Scholars

Segun AdenolaSegun Adenola

Fremont–Mandela / UC Davis

Until the age of eleven, I lived in a very polluted area of Lagos, Nigeria. An everyday problem, pollution not only affected the air, but most significantly, the water I drank. My own firsthand experience with water pollution, as well as what I have learned from living in Oakland has obligated me to become an Environmental Scientist. People in underprivileged communities should not have to die for the lack of clean water. To study Environmental Science is just the beginning. I would like to dedicate my life to making sure that technology supports all human life, and not just those who can afford it.

Yousif AlbadaniYousif Albadani

Skyline High / UC Santa Cruz 

I came to the United States not knowing a single English word. Born in Yemen, I had no chance of higher education. My father, the one person in life who I looked up to, suffered a serious injury. From that moment on I felt it was my obligation to succeed in school. Since I was the oldest child, I had to carve a positive route for my young brothers and sister to walk through. I had to step up to the plate to do what is right, not only for me but for the benefit of my whole family.

Francisco ArceFrancisco Arce Jr.

Lionel Wilson College Prep / Santa Clara University

Growing up in East Oakland I knew my neighborhood was dangerous, full of drugs and gang violence, but I only truly understood this when I became a victim. Being shot has made me appreciate every day I’m alive. I hate my neighborhood but moving has never been an option. Getting an education is the only way I see myself leaving. I want to graduate from a four-year college, have an honorable career, and contribute positively to my community. I know there will be challenges I will need to overcome but my life has been a challenge and I’ve always found solutions.

Luis ArroyoLuis E. Arroyo

Fremont—Media College Prep / UC Santa Cruz

When I was younger I felt like giving up on myself.  But East Oakland Boxing Association helped me build the persistence, dedication and resilience to succeed in my life. Boxing helped me work hard and find the strength to keep on fighting. I was involved with College Track and gained confidence to improve my grades. Looking back at the struggles that my family and I went through, I decided that college was the right path for me. Not only will I make my family and my culture proud, but I will also show the world that I can make it big in life.

Margarita BrizuelaMargarita Brizuela

Arise High School / Mills College

Two paths were set before me, I could either choose the gang life and end up in jail or choose to completely alter my lifestyle and dedicate my time and effort into education. I chose education. School for me has become a place where I escape from the problems related to my past gang life. I took an ecology class that changed my perspective. I conducted a project on the levels of arsenic in one of our local creeks. I plan to major in Environmental Sciences and focus on water quality issues locally and around the world.

Jessica BurgosJessica Burgos

Oakland High / San Francisco State

At thirteen my world consisted of a highly visible social life.  No matter who I had to hurt I wanted to be admired. Although I did succeed in impressing people, I also succeeded in destroying my relationship with my parents. By trying to regain the lost trust of my parents I found something that I had not believed I would find – my true self. I found that not only was my family my inspiration but also my community. I feel that when I go to college I will represent everyone in my community that could not.

Martha CardenasMartha Cardenas

Oakland High / UC Berkeley

My passion for school did not diminish as the years went by.  In fact it grew, as anyone can see from my grades.  I will take this passion, and discipline into college where I will continue to work hard to make my mom proud. An education is something that should be a right to anyone who wants to learn. I will be the first one of my family to go to college even though others think me the least likely to go. I am determined to surpass that label and replace it with teacher, mentor, lawyer, or anything I want to be.

Inosencio CasanovaInosencio Casanova

Lionel Wilson College Prep / UC Santa Cruz

When I was around fourteen years old, I got involved with the wrong crowd. I was rebellious against authority. East Oakland is a community that can either hold you back or push you forward. I was lucky enough to experience the negative side of Oakland and come out the other side a different person. I was able to save myself with the support of my physics teacher, my older sister, Elsa and my mother. Now, at the age of seventeen I still have much to learn but I know for sure that my path includes a successful college experience.

Blanca CastilloBlanca Castillo

Fremont-Mandela / San Francisco State

I have done everything in my power to break the cycle. I, as a female, Latina, and first generation can go to college and can go far in life. Breaking cycles is what keeps my mind motivated to overcome the challenges that life puts me through. I am running to win a race not many people of color win. While I was an intern in the United States District Court I heard many immigration cases. An immigration lawyer is what I have decided to be, to help those voices who are not being heard, be heard.

Lois ChenLois Chen

American Indian Public High School / New York University

I learned to strengthen my self-confidence and stand tall by writing. I have overcome the fear of speaking. I am no longer a fragile girl who could not protect her family. I am prepared to fight against any obstacle. I was the blind man’s walking stick that guided my mom and my grandma. My next step is to obtain an education from a prestigious university. I will strive to become a compassionate nurse providing care to communities that experience disparities in health care access. I want to be the blind man’s walking stick that continues to safely guide others through difficulty.

Teresa ColeTeresa Cole

MetWest / CSU East Bay 

I missed school for three weeks due to a medical issue. It was not easy to make up the work and keep up with the current work, but I did it. I try my best to not let anything get in the way of my schooling. The program FACES for the Future has been a great opportunity for me to get early, hands-on experience in the medical field through internships. I now have a job being a nurse’s aid. I feel that every challenge I take on will get me closer to my interest in becoming a registered nurse.

Ayana CruzAyana Cruz

Castlemont–EOSA / San Francisco State

My mother was born paralyzed. I learned how to clean, help her bathe, and put on her clothes. I understood no one can control the situations/struggles they face each day. In tenth grade, I became interested in massage therapy and physical therapy. After researching the career I figured it fit me best; I would love to surround myself with others who need help and people who love helping others. Unintentionally, my mother’s disability encouraged the reason why I want to succeed in life. I want to be an independent woman, like my mother always wished she could be.

Edgar Antono DeLa Cruz LeivaEdgar Antonio De La Cruz Leiva

Envision Academy / Sacramento State

2011 was the year in which, even though I was sometimes very much afraid, I did not let fear stop me from coming out of the shadows and trying very hard to become myself. I knew that everyone would not accept me. In high school, I learned that I am my own motivation to move forward. Being forced to leave my parents house, I have had to rely on those who I really trust. I am living in the home of my best friend, whose mother offers me shelter and kindness, two things I need.

Victor EspinosaVictor Espinosa Jr.

Oakland Tech / UC Santa Barbara

I came to the U.S. at a young age. I was barely four years old. As long as I can remember my parents have reminded me to not forget where I came from. When I was asked about what I wanted to do recently by one of my teachers I realized that I could combine my architecture and business ambitions together while at the same time being able to help people out. My goal is to be able to make a consulting/ architecture firm that helps come up with better houses for cheaper prices, increasing the standard of living worldwide.

Jazmin GarciaJazmin Garcia

Fremont-Media College Prep / UC Berkeley

I remember thinking to myself, “Doesn’t he realize that we just got ripped away from everything we had?” Migrating from Mexico meant I had to leave everything behind and start from scratch. Even though coming to the United States meant sacrificing a lot of things I loved, I’m grateful my mom brought us. I was able to discover and reach a higher academic potential.  Going to college will help me strive to reach my dreams and help others overcome the physical, social and psychological borders and challenges they face like the ones I face every day.

Jessica GutierrezJessica Gutierrez

Castlemont-Leadership Prep / San Francisco State

There will always be obstacles in my life but I’m strong enough to overcome them. Like many people say, it does not rain forever, and sooner or later the sun has to come out. I didn’t want to be that shy girl sitting down in the corner, I wanted to participate and be part of the class, to be a leader not a follower. My motivation to keep on going is my family and my community. They make me strong, make me believe that I can change. I will not let anything stop me, because this is where my journey begins.

Kwamena Hansen SackeyKwamena Hansen-Sackey

Oakland Tech / UC Berkeley

My world rotates mainly around my family in Ghana, which I hold in high esteem with great pride. Fortunately for me I am in America where the quality of education is much better. My goal is to be the first college graduate in my family and become a doctor. I want to be a doctor because I feel I have the gift of compassion, providing assistance to people at a time they are most vulnerable. My dream is to be very successful and independent so my family will want for nothing.

Bre'janaye JoinerBre’Jaynae Joiner

Oakland High / CSU Monterey 

I couldn’t stand walking out of my house and finding guns and bullet cases in the yard. Living in West Fresno felt like the middle of a battlefield. June of 2009 we moved back to our hometown Oakland so I could build a stronger relationship with my sister who is the first in my family that finished college. Her wise words helped me make that first step of positive change. I started to feel a part of something bigger and better. I was strong and confident in myself. I feel like a seed that has been planted, and has started growing.

Hyowon Lihinag TamHyowon R. Lihinag-Tam

Oakland High / UC Davis

There was much I did not understand when I was growing up. I remember noticing that all my cousins had a much easier life than mine. They had both a father and a mother to help support them mentally and financially. I was jealous of their lifestyle. My mother struggled daily to provide for us. Through her, I learned that with a college degree I will be given opportunities she never had. I want to take what I learn and create a program designed for African American students that focuses on the importance of education and earning a college degree.

Eliezar MendozaEliezer Mendoza

Street Academy / S F State

Observing my parents’ struggles has made me realize how much they have sacrificed to provide my brother and me with more opportunities. Because of their sacrifices, I will be the first in the family to attend college. I contribute to my family by becoming a positive role model to my younger brother. I look beyond the limited resources of my school and seek additional and more challenging courses at community college such as architecture and machinery.  These classes have better prepared me for college and inspired me to do my best and find every resource I have available.

Andrew MorrisAndrew Morris

Lighthouse Community Charter School / Howard University

At four years old I basically lived in the streets. I was forced to fend for myself. I want to be known as a person who is a fighter. I could have given up and decided to sell drugs or hangout in the streets like the youth around me.  Instead of using my past life as an excuse, I am using it to drive me. As a child on 73rd Ave, I barely thought five minutes into the future. Today, I know that I want to be a dentist and be the first one in my family to go to college.

Nereida Estrella NavalescaNereida Navalesca

Oakland Tech / Rochester Institute of Technology

Although my mother and I are barely surviving financially, I don’t feel poor; rather, I feel blessed. Growing up with my grandma, I rarely went to school. As I approached second grade, I could neither read nor write. With the help of my mother, I overcame an obstacle that could have changed my life. I’ve continued to conquer all obstacles that have come my way. I’ve learned that hardship is merely a precursor to success.  I do not have to mirror the world I come from. I’ve learned my own self-worth and with that I have paved a path to success.

Afi Nkhume CrecyAfi Nkhume-Crecy

Oakland Tech / UC Berkeley

Kids who used to be in my 9th grade English class are now drop-outs, in jail, walking the streets, or dead. Because I have all of these examples of what not to do, I am more motivated than ever to remain above the influence. I will continue to apply and involve myself in school, extra curricular activities, and my home life so that all of my energy can be focused on something positive to help my community. The world I come from has served as a true motivator for me to go forth and involve myself in public health issues.

Mauro Salceda PenaMauro Salcedo Peña

Skyline / UC San Diego

Humanity claims that bloodlines determine identity.  Family ridiculed me for putting my valued education first and for having a different definition of “fun”. I was never encouraged to pursue dreams but to always conform. I was bullied for loving to write, read, not worshipping mainstream culture, not listening to rap, and for being a “nerd.” I refused to be a conformist and forfeit my individuality. I have achieved scholarly and humane nirvana by defying racial expectations. I aspire to be an agent of change and to live in hope because I want to empower humanity’s nostalgic desire to be something more.

William PhamWilliam Pham

Skyline / San Francisco State

Every time I look at my knuckles I’m reminded of my past. These scars tell a story about a young boy who did not care about anything. I was always a rebel. However, I had the chance to make up for my past and mature enough to change my ways. I stopped hanging out with my old friends and found new ones. Unexpectedly, school became fun. I enjoyed pushing myself because the feeling of earning your grades is better than any type of drug. I won’t succeed for just myself, but for all the teachers, friends and strangers who believed in me.

Munerrah SalehMuneerah Ahmed Saleh

Lionel Wilson College Prep / Holy Names University

Life in Yemen was harsh. Survival was always an intricate balance. At age seven, I was sent to live with my uncle in the United States. Adjustment to the culture and language was challenging, but nothing compared to how lost I felt without my family. Despite facing competing obligations, I never lost focus. In an attempt to avoid the fate my parents faced absent education, I forged ahead in my academic pursuits. With my skills and passion to help others, I intend to major in molecular and cell biology and pursue an education that will lead me to a career in nursing.

Joanna SantillanJoanna Santillán

Coliseum College Prep / UC Berkeley

Ever since I can remember, I would read people’s lips in order to understand what they were saying. Doctors didn’t give my parents much hope about me being able to hear again. My father then decided to migrate to the U. S. because the service I received in Mexico was expensive and inefficient. After getting used to hearing aids, everything fell into place; I learned English. My biggest dream is to become a pediatrician. I hope to provide other children, including those who may find themselves in a similar situation as I found myself, with the best medical services possible.

Darien SensahbaughDarien Sensabaugh, Sr.

Coliseum College Prep / San Diego State University

Being from a community of low opportunities in East Oakland, I’ve found that hard work pays off. My school has opened doors to so many opportunities.  Four years from now I expect to receive my bachelor’s degree in psychology and pursue a master’s degree. I’ve seen deaths of different people and want to support the city in decreasing the death and violent crimes. It takes well-educated leaders to make change in the world. I want to be one of those people. I want to help people get a good education so that they won’t struggle and make bad decisions that could jeopardize their lives.

Jesus SotoJesus Soto

Lighthouse Community Charter School / UC Santa Cruz

Gangs and fights consumed much of my life until I was 14 years old. I knew that without some sort of change, my future was bleak. I promised my mom that I would make her proud. With motivation from my mom, I discovered something magical inside myself, a relentless desire to succeed. I come from a community of violence and abuse but with determination and relentless passion I discovered a love for science and math, and a desire to make the world a better place. I want to attend college to study astro-physics. A college education will offer me an opportunity to give back to my community.

Jose ValenciaJose Valencia

Lionel Wilson College Prep /UC Santa Cruz

I come from a whole different world but that doesn’t mean that I am different. I didn’t want to end up in that world. I needed and wanted an opportunity to get an education and succeed in the future. Here, education is a right for every single student and I want to take advantage of it. My family’s struggle with poverty and the opportunity to be part of a different world serves as an inspiration not to give up. I want to use my mind to express my intelligence and achieve a college education and a career in engineering.

Jose VillalbaJose Villalba, Jr.

Lighthouse Community Charter School / San Jose State

Rather than being motivated by my family and friends, they often tried to discourage me, firing words like “nerd” and “sucker’” at me like bullets. Still, I decided that no matter what they think, I will go to a four-year college. I want to double major so that I can work in a career of my choice: a biologist with an art degree. I will become a scientific illustrator. I replaced my fat-tipped tagging markers with graphite pencils. I was selected to show my work at a local gallery. I want to serve as a role model to my four younger brothers.

Ayinde WebbAyinde Webb

Oakland School for the Arts / Berklee College of Music

As a high school freshman, I started a youth enrichment project in Oakland dealing with music education and history. I am proud that my love for music propelled me into amazing leadership roles. Music is what I love to do, and I am committed to offering that same love to others along with opportunities to help them develop their musical talents. I would like to develop my musical abilities while giving my intellect the same chance to grow. I hope to continue to reach out to the youth in under-served communities. I have been inspired and encouraged by many noted musicians; I hope to provide that same encouragement to others.

Joyce WongJoyce Wong

Oakland Tech / UC Davis

At times, it was difficult to study, not having many peer role models or guidance from home. It was also a struggle to learn at school, as my school lacks many resources. Additionally, I have never felt safe at school. I have been robbed and bullied on campus. Despite this, I continued to go to school with an attitude to achieve. I constantly challenge myself with college level courses. It has definitely not been easy, but all I want to do is to make my mother proud. I tried my best to show her that her efforts in raising us are of enormous value.

Sergio ZamoraSergio Zamora

Coliseum College Prep / UC Berkeley

I was raised between two cultures, the traditional Mexican culture of my family and the diverse urban culture of Oakland. I have faced poverty, family members and friends lost to gangs, and a great amount of violence. My family has helped me endure these obstacles by encouraging me to always focus on my education. This is what motivates me to keep moving towards my dream of becoming a doctor. I have become one of the top students at my school, taking on challenges such as community college courses, college-prep activities, and volunteer work in order to prepare myself for college.