Feb 18, 2016
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Hercules senior Garvey Buchongo may not have had a father growing up, but since age 5 she’s had her track-and-field team, which she calls “the village that raised me.”

The sport is a big reason the teenager founded and operates a charitable nonprofit — all while excelling at school.

With help from her supportive mother and the coaches and uncles who acted as her father figures, Buchongo learned through track-and-field how to overcome challenges. And through team activities like crab feeds, toy drives and pancake breakfasts she learned the value of community. These influences were at play during a track meet several years ago, when she saw children preparing to compete without shoes.

“When I asked my mother why they were running barefoot, she said that they couldn’t afford shoes,” Buchongo said (pictured below). “As I got older I realized that this is the reality many are faced with on a global scale.”

garvey.2-12That realization led the teenager to launch a nonprofit called The Freedom to Run Project, which aims to collect used shoes, spikes and other equipment for donation to underprivileged youth around the world. The new nonprofit, which has already led to donations of more than 50 pairs of shoes along with the establishment of contacts with track-and-field programs, is one reason Buchongo won first place in this year’s Dr. William King Scholarship program.

Buchongo was one of four West Contra Costa Unified seniors to win the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network college scholarships in honor of Dr. William F. King, a distinguished Chevron employee of 27-plus years who retired in 2003 and was a mentor, community activist and educator.

Chevron Richmond’s Black Employee Network honored the teens who not only excel in the classroom but also in the community during its 17th Annual Black History Awareness Celebration at the Refinery on Wednesday.

When Buchongo isn’t busy developing her nonprofit, she’s getting straight As in school or participating in community events, such as coordinating volunteers at crab feeds. She even took the initiative to take a class at Contra Costa College in Kinesiology, the field she plans to pursue.

These are some of many reasons this young woman is going places, fast.


Marlon Creswell, De Anza High (Second Place)

Perhaps the wisest decision Creswell (pictured above) has made in his young life is to act on his curiosity.

It was his curiosity about how things work, particularly in computer software systems, that led to his early enrollment in computer classes. He first received an introduction to Microsoft PowerPoint and Word, which he used to craft spellchecked essays for school assignments. Continued curiosity led him to his high school’s Tech Academy, where he launched into digital arts and produced posters for school events. He also took interest in HTML and can now create any website he wants.

Having received hours of training and experience at such a young age, Creswell is ahead of the game in his goal to become a software engineer. But his purpose is much greater.

Described as a humble, straight-As student who looks to learn from others whenever he can, Creswell hopes to one day launch clubs and organizations to encourage more diversity in STEM careers.

“It was a privilege that I had so many opportunities to expand my knowledge,” he says. “I realized that not everyone has access to the opportunities that I had. So I want to work to create these opportunities for the future generations to come.”


dimas.2-18Arnold Dimas, Richmond High (Third Place)

Arnold Dimas (pictured above) has an intimate respect and awareness for the past and present struggles of minorities in his community. His awareness of the limitations of his surroundings did not hold him back, but rather led Dimas to taking community college courses as a ninth grader.

Dimas learned early on that education is the key to success. That early recognition is one reason he’s ranked first in his class of 338 students with a 4.458 GPA.

A College is Real director described the Richmond High senior as one of the most scholarly students she’s worked with, saying he’s taken advantage of every AP course, health academy electives and any other educational programs he can find. He simply doesn’t see a limit to challenging himself.

But his mastery in the classroom is only half of Dimas’ story. He has been heavily involved in working to improve his community on the Richmond Youth Leadership Committee and as president of the Red Cross Club. Even more so, he has a passion for public health, having accrued much knowledge through extensive research on the topic, and hopes to further those studies in college.

“In my family, my dad left Mexico with the hopes of accessing ‘the American Dream,'” Dimas said. “He is a plumber, and stresses the importance of receiving an education so that one day I can use my mind instead of having to use my hands.”


Sydnea Booker, Hercules High (Fourth Place)

Observing how violence, substance abuse and mental illness affect low-income neighborhoods, Hercules senior Sydnea Booker established her purpose: to create a safe community spaces for young people to learn and express themselves.

Her big idea: To open a chain of performing arts academies nationwide for kids to learn various crafts. She hopes these academies will contribute to building communities while offering safe havens and creative outlets for youth.

If anyone can pull this off, it’s Booker. She’s held leadership roles since her freshman year, when she was elected class president. She has also been leading captain of the cheer team; Spirit Committee Chairman of her school as a junior; African American Student Union vice president; and the campus’ store manager.

In addition to these leadership skills, Booker was described by an instructor at Hercules High as confident, eager to learn and filled with intelligent, positive insight. Best of all? She has a pleasant personality and gets along with everyone — a quality that further emphasizes her natural ability to lead, the teacher added.



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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.