17th Annual Higher Education Mentoring Program Graduation, Class of 2018

On May 8, 2018, Project Youth OCBF celebrated the graduation of the 17th Annual Higher Education Mentoring Program’s Class of 2018.  Twenty-seven graduates – 16 girls and 11 boys – graduated from the program after preparing for college for 18 months. All students will be attending college in the fall.

Carolyn McKitterick, Program Chair, welcomed the students and their friends and families. Brian Daucher, Project Youth OCBF President, thanked all of the Higher Education Mentoring Program donors including this year’s scholarship, college dorm kit, and program donors.

Wes Polischuk, Associate Board President, talked about Project Youth OCBF’s associate board and how they support the Higher Education Mentoring Program through mentor volunteers, career day, scholarships, and fundraising. Wes spoke about how the program gives associate board members a chance to give back to our community by sharing their own experiences and stories with students.  

Wes introduced Keynote Speaker Avelino Valencia III, the Principal 69th District Representative in the office of Assembly Member Tom Daly. He was born and raised in Anaheim and attended Katella High School. Avelino went on to attend Fullerton Junior College, where he earned his associate’s degree and was a member of the Fullerton College Hornets football team. He went on to transfer to San Jose State University where he was a member of the San Jose State Spartan football team and earned a degree in Political Science. After graduating from San Jose State University, Avelino had a brief stint in the National Football League. 

Avelino spoke to the students about his journey through high school and college and encouraged them to follow their own path. His message was clear: “Let your loved ones help you, but stay true to yourself.” He used his own football experience as an example and told about the people who influenced him. 

Other presentations were from program participants Angelica Gonzalez, who will be attending UC San Diego, and David Hernandez, who will be attending Stanford University this fall. Both spoke about how much the Higher Education Mentoring Program helped prepare them to go to college and the assistance they received. They thanked the program and their families for the support given to them to encourage them to pursue a higher education.   

Next, Noemi Urquiza, past graduate of the program who has a neuroscience degree from Harvard, spoke about her college experience and how the Higher Education Mentoring Program played a role in her success. Lastly, Angelica Gonzalez’s mother, Maria Gonzalez, spoke from a parent’s perspective on how the program helps the whole family. 

The evening concluded with students receiving scholarships, college dorm kits, backpacks filled with school supplies, and certificates from county and city officials.