Jun 4, 2015
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Richmond Standard is pleased to introduce a new feature highlighting the work of local high school journalists. Sponsored by the Contra Costa Journalism Network and supported by the Lesher Foundation, the Contra Costa County Office  of Education, the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative, and Chevron, the program works to provide journalism opportunities for Contra Costa youth.  Our first two reporters are Joanna Hernandez and Gabriela Fernandez from Richmond High School.

Echavarria (pictured above) earns a trip to Brown University

By Joanna Hernandez

Richmond High School

Esmeralda Echavarria, a Richmond High School sophomore and straight A studentni, has been awarded a scholarship to attend Brown University in Rhode Island to take a course on Women & Leadership.

The Ivy League Connection offers scholarships to attend an Ivy League school throughout the summer. It will be paying for all of her expenses including tuition, transportation, food and lodging. It also offers to loan her items that she will need for the trip.

The Ivy League Connection—now in it’s 10th year—has awarded 305 scholarships to West Contra Costa Unified students. Each scholarship averages more than $10,000. The goal of the ILC is to expand the college going culture in the District and to expose students to schools other then the University of California’s 10 campuses and the California State University’s 23 campuses. The ILC wants students to find the “perfect fit” where they can get the best education and where financial aid might help them to walk away from college debt free.

The program selects the most talented and promising 10th and 11th grade students and takes them to visit the top universities on the east coast. This year the ILC’s partner schools are Brown, Cornell, UPenn, Vanderbilt, Columbia and UChicago.

Echavarria’s opportunity came in January when she was selected after a rigorous application and interview process. Out of the nearly 700 eligible students who could apply, Esme will join two other Richmond HS students attending this same course. (Diana Ramirez and Wendy Gonzalez will join Esme in the Women & Leadership course while RHS junior Arnold Dimas will join her cohort at Brown to take a DNA/Biotechnology course.)

“I was so nervous,” said Echavarria. “I didn’t think they were going to choose me.”

Echavarria added, “I was shocked yet so full of joy.”

In July, she will be going to Rhode Island for three weeks to experience Brown University. She will also have site visits at Harvard, Yale and Wellesley Universities.

Echavarria hopes to matriculate at Brown University and encourage other people to take great opportunities.

“I hope I get to expand my knowledge and socialize with a lot of people. I want to encourage people to try out something new, like a scholarship or a job. Something they believe they think they can’t achieve,” she added.

Having straight A’s was a huge advantage for her to get picked. Echavarria said she worked hard all the time for all she remembers.

Echavarria is doing big things at the age of 16 and wants to do even bigger things in the future. Her current GPA is a 4.0 and its been like that since middle school.

Editor’s note: The article has been edited since publication to provide clarification on Ivy League Connection

Garcia works hard to turn prospects around


By Gabriela Sanchez

Richmond High School

Chris Garcia, a junior at North Campus High School in Richmond, is a very enthusiastic person. He’s tall, has brown hair,brown eyes and is 17 years old. He’s a young guy who likes to go for what he wants.

Garcia lives with his mother and little brother. He has only one sibling, a three year-old brother named Leo. Garcia lives  in Richmond where he also has a job. He works at a mechanic shop.

Garcia seems to enjoy his job. ”It varies, it just depends on the day. Overall I would say I’m happy where I’m at,” Garcia said.

“I’m a very respectful person,” said Garcia.” I like to help people when they need the help. I complete everything I have to do to the best,” he said. “Something I like to do during my free time is relax and hang out with some of my friends to get my mind off of hard school work for a little. When I hang out with some friends we like to talk, just catch up with what’s new,” Garcia said.

Garcia knows how it feels to put in hard effort to complete his work. Now he takes it seriously and focuses more on school now.

“Even though, I’m a little behind with credits, I’m working very hard to get all my credits I need in order to graduate. I work my way out to get my credits by doing all my work and turning it in on time.” Garcia said.

Garcia didn’t perform well in high school at first.

“When I was in my freshman high school year, I would not take my schoolwork seriously,” Garcia said regretfully. “ I would think it wouldn’t affect me later on. I would think everything would be easy. I would miss school a lot and sometimes even ditch some of my classes.”

“Other times I wouldn’t even do my work and I would be behind with my school work. I didn’t really care much. I didn’t think it would affect me to this point,” Garcia said.

Even though Garcia didn’t do well in his freshman year he still continued doing the same during his sophomore year.

“During my sophomore year I would do the same. The only difference was that when I would go I would turn in some work, but that wouldn’t really make much of a difference. I would still be behind. Many days missed, many missing assignments, all that would hold me back from gettingall my credits.” Garcia said.

Garcia wouldn’t be responsible about his work and going to school when he had to in his first two years of high school. He started to realize that he had to start doing well in school and stop ditching class, do his work, and stop missing school. It was time for him to start doing good.

“Now I’m a junior. I started to take my school work and education serious. It was really affecting me. I had to put an end to all that and start focusing on my school.

“I was growing up and it was only going to affect me even more if I didn’t put an end to it.”

Eventually, Garcia said, “I got transferred to North Campus, a continuation school, where I’m currently working very hard to get all my credits needed to go back to my normal school and graduate.”

Garcia is doing way better than he was before.

“Its been a long year full of hard work, but I’m not giving up,” Garcia said confidently. “ Even though I have been digging myself in a very deep hole, I still seek to find an alternative.”

Garcia is looking toward the future.

“Graduating is something very important to me and I know that with my hard work and dedication I will make it far in life,” he said. “I wanna find a good college and get a good paying job. Right now I’m still thinking about a career I would like to study for.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I know I’ll make it,” Garcia said with confidence.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.