What does a program like SOY mean to a young …Latina with two older sisters [who are teen mothers]? …To a girl seeing her family falling apart to divorce, drugs, and domestic violence? To a girl like that, SOY means hope. It means a quiet place to study, to congregate with friends, to meet mentors, and to be empowered… [The SOY Girls program] was a space where girls could talk about issues like dating, health and hygiene, [and] self-esteem…. Today I am working at the UCSD Laboratory as a Research Associate… and have been published in scientific journals for… investigating how the brain processes language. I also volunteer …at an organization [which helps] underprivileged inner-city youth become first generation college students. I am …dedicated to this …program because I know firsthand how helping children go to college can impact their lives positively and creates a better future.
-Christina Torres, SOY ‘06
UC San Diego
The SOY facility was a second home for me and for many others… We would leave school and be welcomed by smiling faces from the staff and other students. They weren’t just there to help us with our studies, but to help us with life problems and to give us that extra push we need to succeed…. The program kept us busy with community service projects, field trips to visit college campuses, and even during the summer we got to learn how to sail boats, surf, [and] play instruments…
-Annette Mendoza, SOY ‘10
Cal State Fullerton
I grew up in Costa Mesa with three other families in a one-bedroom apartment… It was difficult for me to find …the space to study… In my junior year a group of SOY students and I went on a trip to visit …colleges, [including] UCLA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford and UC Berkeley. Seeing how happy and successful [the SOY alumni] were made me believe that I could succeed in college as well. … I remember going every month to turn in my grades to Silvia and how happy I felt to have her care so much about my education. I never wanted to disappoint Trevor or Silvia…I always worked hard in school….And it paid off: I graduated from Estancia High School…as the class Valedictorian.
-Damian Leon, SOY ‘09
UC Santa Barbara
SOY …encouraged me to take Honors and Advanced Placement classes, which not many students from my background were taking. SOY … encouraged me to participate in school clubs and activities. [In] college I became involved in a club called Project People Against Trafficking Human Exploitation…I look up to the [SOY] staff as role models. When I need some encouragement, …I think of my family and SOY to get myself motivated again.
Cal State Fullerton
I am a first generation Mexican-American and … the first in my family to graduate from high school. The SOY Center…helped me be on top of my academic performance with bi-weekly grade reports and tutor services… I had the privilege to be part of the first SOY Girls group to summit Mt. Whitney in 2004 and…in 2006. This helped me go beyond my personal limits [and] helped me understand that everything I set myself to do is possible with a little bit of self-motivation. Never in my life did I imagine myself summiting Mt. Whitney…
-Aracely Mendoza, SOY ‘06
Cal State Fullerton
I was heading …the wrong direction. Gangsters, drugs, alcohol, and violence [are] all I knew. My home life was a mess: my parents fighting every moment [made] it hard to study or have any [peace]….[I did] anything I could do to get out of the house, [but] ….the friends, the drugs, the alcohol [were] not helping me in any way. I …needed a refuge… Academics, dance, fitness, community service, and field trips… I had everything at the palm of my hand and it was free… Dance is my escape from the world…We have performed in places like the Orange County Fair, Knotts Berry Farm, [and on] a Spanish TV show… [Since I started] the fitness program, I have lost at least 20 pounds…We learned about injury prevention and different muscle [groups]. We had a nutritionist …teach us the difference between healthy food and junk food and the results of a bad diet. Learning about nutrition and fitness has inspired me to major in Kinesiology.
Cal State Dominguez Hills
One of my favorite memories about the SOY program was being able to attend the Latino Youth Conference in 2010. I heard motivational speeches from Latinos who had succeeded in pursuing their dreams. These people were once in my shoes. [This] inspired me to believe that if I set my mind to something, I can achieve it by working hard and staying focused.
-Angelica Hernandez, SOY ‘10
UC San Diego
Upon my parents’ divorce, my teen years became very confusing to me….
I made myself a vow to not become another statistic; I refused to be the teenage girl from a divorced family who became pregnant …In all the chaos, I encountered a ray of light. SOY became my second home… SOY is a place where a child can go right after school and be provided with the love, support, understanding and resources that often lack in a low-income home… I enrolled in [an] SAT-prep course…and [signed up for and did well on] AP Calculus and AP Biology tests… The [SOY] Girls program provided me with the education I needed to prevent …[an] unwanted teen pregnancy…. My dreams came true. I am the woman that looks back and, with deep emotion and happy tears in her eyes, says, “I made it!”
-Karla Andrade, SOY ‘04
Cognitive Sciences and Sociology
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
I became involved in SOY [by playing] basketball outside the SOY center. I really did want to go to college and be prepared when I got there…. Silvia Rosales… always made sure I was on top of my schoolwork… I was dumbfounded about how to apply for college… I could not turn to my parents…. Silvia was there to guide me through my college application and helped me with financial aid…[SOY helped me explore different college[s] for a very low cost. The trip to visit various universities… was a real eye opener…SOY alumni [showed] us around the campus and [talked] about their own college experience…SOY has helped me realize that I am capable of being successful in life.
-Jesus Antonio Martinez
San Diego State University
The tutoring offered at SOY made a huge difference in how well I performed at Cal…. It taught me how to study…I am biased towards the academic component of SOY because I have… experienced how important it is …that students are academically prepared once they get to college….My passion for medicine, public health and research …motivated me to pursue a career… as a Primary Care Physician with the intention of assisting in reducing health disparities among underserved communities….
-Juan Carlos Cabrera
Psychology & Molecular Biology
College always seemed like a distant dream… My mother is unable to work due to injuries that she received when we were hit by a drunk driver. The average yearly income for our family of four is about $20,000…. When it came …to choosing …colleges to apply for, I was clueless. When I got my first college acceptance, I proudly went to SOY to share the news. Making the final college choice was not a simple decision…I turned to SOY for advice because by then… SOY had become a support system for me. [Silvia’s and Trevor’s] support and encouragement gave me the motivation… to choose UC Berkeley.
In high school I always had trouble with math; …what really helped me at SOY was the tutoring. After I started getting tutored, I… started liking my math classes because I was no longer struggling in them…. With Neighbors for Neighbors we plant trees and shrubs around our neighborhood parks. … For Adopt A Family we go to the OC fairgrounds during holiday season and unload gifts from cars that people donated. If I [had] never joined SOY, I would not have…had the opportunity to help out my community… SOY is a great program that enables and influences us to become better people with a great future.
Cal State Fullerton
Liberal Studies, Child Development
SOY has changed the lives of kids who could have gone down a much different path…For students who were already working in the right direction, SOY encouraged them to do even better and held them to the absolute highest standards….SOY played a significant role with my grades; I received straight A’s through high school, took 8 AP classes, and graduated at the top 2% of my class….SOY helped me develop an effective work ethic, one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
-Charles Umansky SOY ‘11
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Business Administration