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ALA’s Annual Scholarship Gala celebrates Latino culture and honors five top AUSD seniors

  • Students from the Fremont Elementary Dual Immersion program performed at the Alhambra Latino Association Gala. ALA works to initiate and support programs that provide educational and cultural awareness in the community. Photo by Ester Ybarra.

  • (L-R) ALA President Teresa Ybarra, Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, ATA President Tammy Scorcia, SGHS scholarship winner Alejandra Lopez, AHS scholarship winner Briana Castillo, MKHS scholarship winner Joshua Pudillo, and U.S. Rep Judy Chu. Photo by Martin Ulloa.

  • Scorcia has worked in the district for 21 years and for 18 of those years she taught at Ynez Elementary School in Monterey Park. She has been a member of ATA for 16 years. Photo by Martin Ulloa.

  • State Assemblymember Ed Chau presented the present student honorees with Certificates of Recognition from the State Assembly. Photo by Martin Ulloa.


Almansor Court

700 S Almansor St.
Alhambra , CA 91801 United States

The Alhambra Latino Association’s 22nd Annual Scholarship Fundraiser Dinner & Dance was held Friday night in the Lakeview Room at Almansor Court. This year’s honoree was Tammy Scorcia, the president of the Alhambra Teachers Association but, as always, the spotlight was on the five students, aspiring doctors, computer engineers and coders, receiving ALA scholarships as they graduate from AUSD schools and set their sites on college.

The evening began with children from the Fremont School dual language immersion program performing songs and traditional dances in Spanish. Proud parents many with video cameras stood at the back of the banquet hall filming video of the delightful scene.

Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler was MC for the night’s events which included a silent auction and opportunity baskets. Congresswoman Judy Chu spoke briefly at the end of the evening congratulating the scholarship winners and commending ALA for its excellent work. She presented each winner as well as ALA President Teresa Ybarra with Congressional Recognition Certificates.

Other dignitaries attending the event included State Assemblymember Ed Chau, who presented the winners with certificates from the state assembly; Alhambra City Council Members Ross Maza and Katherine Lee; AUSD School Board Member Wing K. Ho and AUSD School Superintendent Denise Jaramillo.

After the buffet dinner was served, Ybarra welcomed the 275 guests in the packed room and thanked the audience for their attendance and support of ALA’s mission of enriching education through culture. She then introduced ALA board member Dominic Tovar, himself a past winner of the ALA scholarship which helped him on his way to UC Santa Cruz, who presented this year’s winners. Tovar is now the Community Outreach Manager for the Alhambra Source.

Three of the winners, Alexandra Lopez of San Gabriel High School, Briana Castillo of Alhambra High School and Joshua Pulido of Mark Keppel High School were presented with their scholarships and each spoke eloquently about what the honor meant to their dreams. Two of the recipients, Amber Molina of Century High School, and Michelle Olivares-Saga or Independence High School were not in attendance as the ALA event coincidentally fell on their Grad Night celebration. Their mothers accepted their scholarships in their place and each received warm applause from the audience. Each of the scholarship winners gave emotional speeches thanking teachers who inspired them, school councilors who pushed them, and, of course, their parents who supported them through it all.

Bertha Saga (left), the mother of Michelle Olivares-Saga, and Rosa Diaz (right), mother of Amber Molina,  accepted the scholarships for their daughters who were both at Grad Night.  Abel Bourbouis, who represented the Principal of the Alternative Education Program, invited the mothers onstage and presented them with the scholarship award. Photo by Ester Ybarra.

After the scholarship ceremony, this year’s ALA honoree Tammy Scorcia, the President of the Alhambra Teachers Association, was presented. She was introduced to the gathering by Terry Skotnes, the Executive Director of the Alhambra Teachers Association, who praised Scorcia not only for her devotion to the children of the AUSD but her engagement in the betterment of ATA members and in her greater social activism.

In her comments, Scorcia said she was touched and surprised to be named this year’s honoree and, as is her manner, said this award represents the greater work of ATA and not just her efforts. That concluded the official program and then the DJ turned up the volume for dancing.

To be considered for the $1,000 scholarship, applicants from each of the Alhambra Unified School District high schools submitted essays that outlined their plans for higher education and how they would use their education to further the greater good in the world, and their overall dreams and aspirations. In addition, applicants had to submit a letter of recommendation from a school district employee and, of course, their grade transcripts. More than 50 senior students applied for the scholarships this year.

The 18 members or the ALA board, made up of current and former educators, local leaders and past recipients of the scholarships, considered the applicants overall qualifications and goals but also their storytelling ability and the structure of their essays and, finally, how these students would help others in the Latino community.

Meet the  2019 ALA Scholarship Winners – 

Alejandra Lopez, 17, of San Gabriel High School

Alejandra Lopez plans to attend UC San Diego where she will major in biology with the goal of being a pediatrician. The oldest sibling of five, she is also a first generation college student and has mixed feelings about attending school in the Fall. “It’s exciting to be the first in my family to be a part of the university experience…I’m actually nervous because it’s a lot of pressure,” she said.

Lopez, who lives in Rosemead, has developed leadership assets in and out of the classroom and believes her life experience and upbringing gives her the power to help disenfranchised communities. “As a Latina and as a daughter of an immigrant single mother I see things differently than most people. I would use my unique experiences to create organizations that would help Latina women get any extra help they might need…”

According to Leah Ulloa, Lopez’s AP Statistics teacher at San Gabriel High School, “as a Matador, Alejandra is actively involved in the Medical Careers Academy and is currently the club president where she runs meetings, promotes health awareness on campus and organizes fundraisers.”

Amber Molina, 18, of Century High School

Amber Molina will be attending East Los Angeles College or Pasadena City College after graduating from Century High School. With her scholarship, she aims to transfer to UCLA and then work for a degree in psychology with an emphasis in criminal behavior. Molina has lived in Alhambra her whole life with her mother, two older brothers and a little sister. She wants to use her bilingual upbringing to help kids who speak both Spanish and English.

Patricia Garcia, English Teacher at Century High School, believes “Amber has become a confident young woman, who knows what she wants for her life and will pursue the correct path to accomplish her dreams, while positively influencing people she meets along the way.”

Joshua Pulido, 17, of Mark Keppel High School

As a Mark Keppel High School student and big brother to two siblings, Joshua Pulido has known for two years that he wanted to study Computer Science at a university. After taking the AP Computer Science class, which is only offered to seniors, his admiration for the subject was solidified and he decided to major in his dream subject in the Fall.

Coming to MKHS from Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary, he became a member of Tri-M, a music honors society that “gives back to the community through accessible performances,” said Pulido. Given his passion for music, he was also involved with the high school’s orchestra and marching band, Pulido hopes to join the Wind Ensemble group at Occidental College, which he will be attending in the Fall.

A letter of reference for Pulido, from Isabel Dominguez, World Languages Department Chair at Mark Keppel states – “I have observed Joshua helping others, students and adults on campus, when they needed it, as well as often volunteering to take on extra challenges. He is a very ambitious and strong student academically but also a kind and well-rounded person who is full of curiosity.”

Michelle Olivares-Sage, 18, of Independence High School 

Michelle Olivares-Saga looks to become a pediatric oncologist after pursuing higher education at Pasadena City College and then transferring. Though she’s already earned enough credits to graduate from Independence High School, she is still taking an extracurricular Child Development class on campus in order to prepare her for working with children.

Olivares-Saga believes the structure of Independence and Century High Schools allowed her to catch up with her credits and thrive in her education. “Century [High School] was great! They offered much support and opportunities and made me think even more about my future and [made sure] I was doing my best in every class to make up my credits,” she said. Olivares-Saga, an alumna of Repetto Elementary School,  lives in Rosemead with her mother, grandmother, little sister, and older brother.

Briana Castillo, 17,  of Alhambra High School

Briana Castillo will be studying Environmental Engineering at the University of Portland in the Fall. The daughter of an Ecuadorian mother and Guatemalan father, both immigrants, she has had an active history at AHS. Castillo spent three years on the track team, joined IDEAS (Improving Dreams of Equality, Access and Success) this school year, and still frequently volunteers for the San Gabriel Mission Church food bank program.

When she’s not volunteering her time, Castillo is in the classroom trying to figure out a correlation between politics and the environment. Her dream job is to become an environmental engineer. In her scholarship essay to ALA, she wrote, “From my career choice I hope to gain a greater understanding of environmental and political issues affecting minorities today and learn the necessary means in college to create solutions.” She lives in San Gabriel with her two parents.

In addition to the annual fundraising banquet, ALA also organizes events such as their Dias de Los Muertos Cultural Festival, an afternoon of live music, arts & crafts, and other family-friendly activities.The nonprofit hosts annual performances featuring ballet folklorico groups and mariachis as well as informal heritage mixers around Alhambra as a key component of their mission to continue advancement in education for Latinos who live in the San Gabriel Valley.

Stay up to date Alhambra Latino Association: http://www.alhambralatinoassociation.com/

Dominic Tovar contributed reporting.

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