Meet Alhambra's newest journalists: Reporter Corps 2014

Reporter Corps 2014 | Photos by Albert Lu1Reporter Corps 2014 | Photos by Albert Lu

Alhambra Source and USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are proud to introduce this year's Reporter Corps Alhambra class. Reporter Corps participants will focus on education stories in Alhambra, exploring how the Local Control Funding Formula will impact students, teachers, parents, and the community. Read more about the reporters below.

Reporter Corps trains young adults in multimedia journalism so that they can report on their own communities. Participants receive training and support from professional journalists, local government officials, and researchers. The first class launched in Alhambra in October 2012 and published stories on Alhambra Source. Reporter Corps South Los Angeles launched in June 2013 and published stories on Intersections South L.A. Visit the Reporter Corps website to learn more.

Valerie CabralValerie Cabral

My family emigrated from Mexico City in 1998, when I was 3 years old.  A year later my parents sent for me to join them. We first lived in San Gabriel for a couple years and then moved to Alhambra when I was 5.

I am currently attending Whittier College, majoring in Political Science. I am interested in investigating the division between Hispanic and Asian students and the impact a college preparatory program like AVID makes on educational attainment. In my experience at Alhambra High School, there was a stereotype that Hispanics should not be in Advanced Placement classes while Asians should be in AP classes. AVID broke that stereotype, and helped elevate students like me who fell in the middle in terms of class achievement. But in my junior year, the program was cut. Students made an effort to fight for the program and attended City Council meetings to share how AVID had impacted our lives. I am interested in investigating through Reporter Corps the impact of cutting the program had on young people like me, what alternative programs exist, and how I can raise more awareness about the issue.

Through Reporter Corps, I want to polish my skills as a writer and make my education story the best possible, so that Alhambra can see that our community is in need of programs like AVID.

18, Alhambra High School graduate, Whittier College student, Spanish speaker

Kristine Hoang

Kristine Hoang

My family is from South Vietnam, and my parents came to the San Gabriel Valley in 1975 as part of the “Boat People” who escaped the Vietnam War as refugees. My dad settled in Alhambra and worked at a grocery store to pay his way through college at Cal Poly Pomona. He relocated with my mom to West Covina when they got married in 1990, when he finally found a job as an engineer. His determination and hard work inspire me to pursue my dreams and ambitions.

I graduated one year early from the UC Irvine in 2012. I studied history and was also a journalism double major, but dropped it to save money and because my parents thought journalism wasn’t financially stable. I did anything I could to put money on the table after college, working in restaurants, non-profits, and graphic design. I ended up writing again when my college friend asked me if I wanted to contribute to OC Weekly. I did it, loved it, and realized I wanted to keep writing. I am interested in examining how California’s new local funding plans will affect STEM  (science, technology, math, engineering) achievement for minority girls. I also want to explore how mentorship programs in local schools influence these students’ ambitions and careers. 

With Reporter Corps, I want to challenge myself to improve my skills as a writer and reporter. After the program’s done, I’m planning to continue freelance writing and reporting.

22, Bishop Amat Memorial High School and UC Irvine gradate, Vietnamese and French speaker

Stephanie Lee

Stephanie Lee

My parents met in Taiwan, where my dad lives. My mom was born in Laos, but she left toward the end of the Laotian Civil War, shortly before Vientiane fell to the Pathet Lao in the mid 70s. Her family stayed in Thailand while waiting for arrangements to move to Taiwan. In 1986, she immigrated to the Echo Park area of Los Angeles before eventually settling down in Alhambra with my brother and me. I grew up here, graduating from Alhambra High School. I am a senior at Loyola Marymount University studying Political Science and Chinese.

I think students in this area do not always have the tools they need to successfully apply to college. When I was in high school, I had friends who did not take the SAT or fill out financial aid paperwork because no one told them about what these things were or about the due dates. I’d like to explore what programs are or should be available to high school students that push them to pursue higher education. Another important  issue — especially in a community like Alhambra — is whether or not immigrant parents have the knowledge they need to guide their children through the college application process. I had to figure out what FAFSA forms were, for example, and then had to explain them to my parents.

With Reporter Corps, I am excited to work in journalism again after a long break from it. In addition, I hope to be able to not only understand and report some of the challenges that first-generation students face, but also help the effort to mitigate some of these difficulties.

22, Alhambra High School graduate, Loyola Marymount student, Mandarin speaker

Raymond Penaia

Raymond Penaia

My parents emigrated from Samoa as children because their families were seeking better opportunities. I was born in Orange County, grew up in Diamond Bar and West Covina, and attended church in El Monte. A special place for me in the San Gabriel Valley is the Rose Hills cemetery in Whittier. We would go to church on Sundays in El Monte and then head straight to the cemetery for family bonding. Doing so allowed me to appreciate spending time with my family as well as reflect on memories of loved ones who have passed on.

I am interested in the impact of Pacific Islanders being lumped into the Asian American model minority. During my experience in high school, there were not many resources available for me as a Pacific Islander. Other Asian American minorities were not addressed.

As a part of Reporter Corps, I am curious to explore more about these issues. I am excited to learn and grow as a writer and utilize this opportunity to enhance and define my career path and future endeavors.

22, Diamond Ranch High School and USC graduate

Elisa Perez

Elisa Perez

My grandparents emigrated from Mexico in 1957 and made the San Gabriel Valley their home. I grew up in San Gabriel on the border of Alhambra and attended local Catholic schools that emphasized individualized education. My teachers were my mentors, and my small community was very supportive.

I have always enjoyed telling stories through the written word and visual arts but was apprehensive to pursue a career in such a competitive field. However, my family and mentors instilled in me the belief that if you worked hard enough, you can achieve anything. While in college I wrote and produced several short films, taught a summer film camp to Long Beach high school students, and took a year to study abroad in London.

Some of my best friends are teachers, and a concern that they have shared with me is that the overpopulated class sizes do not allow them to give each student the attention they need. Another is that due to budget cuts, after-school programs that aimed to give every child the skills necessary to succeed have been discontinued. For example, community service programs and student tutoring require instructors and resources outside of the classroom. Without these programs, we lose the possibility of giving young people manageable responsibilities through an activity that allows them to see how much of a difference they can make in their own community. Not only would this give them the confidence to know that they can complete a task, but also hopefully inspire them to initiate their own point of action in the future. It is my hope to explore how we can fix the lack of attention and opportunity a student receives due to a lack of means.

23, San Gabriel Mission High School and Cal State Long Beach graduate, Spanish speaker

Arthur Wang

Arthur Wang

My parents emigrated from the Fujian province in China two decades ago, concerned with the fate of the country after the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. I was born and raised in Monterey Park, witnessing firsthand the interactions between old and new Chinese immigrants, Asians, Hispanics, East Asians, and Southeast Asians. I graduated from Mark Keppel High School in May 2013, and now study sociology at East Los Angeles College, with an interest in Asian American studies and international relations.

Growing up in the highest percentage Asian city in the continental United States has greatly influenced my experiences and thoughts. I am particularly interested in the educational goals of Asian Americans in the area — specifically, the tendency to study STEM majors. Besides that, everything, from how members of similar and divergent ethnic groups interact in and out of the classroom to the way waves of young immigrants are assimilated to a new language and culture by local schools, is intriguing to me.

Reporter Corps provides the perfect opportunity to answer so many of these community questions, and more importantly, ask the ones that few have thought about before.

18, Mark Keppel High School graduate, East Los Angeles College student, Mandarin speaker

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Here, I'll attempt to answer every single reporters questions to save them the trouble of soul-searching for the truth.

Valerie - The division between Hispanic and Asian students is because they hail from extremely different cultures. They share enough similarities to co-exist but not enough to truly collaborate on anything or engage with each other on more than a shallow basis. And both sides are for the most part, absolutely OK with this - they are cordial but mind their own business. That is why Alhambra works without much racial tension, being a shining example of a completely minority-dominated suburb.

Kristine - Long story short, public systems and infrastructure can absolutely help uplift a population but ultimately the value system is given by the parents and community. It's all a circular chain-like eco-system but it starts with the desire. No system can make people who are incentivized by various outside forces to not pursue certain fields or goals to do so. It's really for people on the fence or with a slight inclination already.

Raymond - There is a slight negative impact for Pacific Islanders to be lumped in with Asian Americans but not much. This question has been posed before in Southeast Asian circles because the Asian American narrative is dominated by high-performing East Asians. The real issues in the PI community stem from culture - until you can change that - all system flaws are minor factors in the equation at best.

Elisa - There are so many systemic issues in our public school system and it's going to take a multi-pronged approach executed with high accuracy to really start to shift things. The problems are entrenched. It's an incredibly complicated issue that many politicians will continue to promise to fix in vain. But perhaps baby steps can be made and over time one day we'll look up we will find we have travelled far.

Arthur - The desire for STEM majors are driven by culture, which in and of itself has the tendency to snowball. As immigrants continue to arrive and mesh/clash with the old pre-existing waves, much of the interaction will be driven by incentives - whether social or financial capital. As the new rich mainland Chinese continue to arrive, it may create a identity-choice overload and kids may retract into their increasingly fragmented social groups, even within the odd ethnic enclave the SGV has become.

Anthony Perez

Can't wait to read/watch/listen to the stories you all produce! Congratulations to everyone!

It's great to hear the stories of your families - I'm sure your folks are proud of your accomplishments. Looking forward to your reports!

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