Last semester, Vanessa Ulloa's report card resembled that of the notorious underachieving cartoon character Bart Simpson. She received mostly F's.
This semester, Vanessa has raised her grades to five C's and a B, and attributes the improvement to a scholarship program that a Japanese bank has set up for students with low grades. "I've gotten better grades, and I have been coming to school every day," said Vanessa, 16, who is in the 10th grade at Huntington Park High School.
The Los Angeles branch of the Tokyo-based Yasuda Trust & Banking Co. Ltd. in November promised to give scholarships to Vanessa and nine other Los Angeles Unified School District students if they graduate from high school and enroll in college. The students will receive a $2,000 scholarship if they attend a two-year community college; $4,000 if they enroll in a four-year college. Vanessa was the only Southeast-area student selected.
The bank selected 10 students in the ninth or 10th grade who were getting low grades, but who had demonstrated the potential to do better. Many had scored high on annual achievement tests.
The scholarships are designed to encourage underachieving students from needy families to get better grades and go on to college, said Barbara Jones, a bank spokeswoman. "Everybody helps the A student. So, we wanted to motivate these students who have ability but are not doing well," Jones said. The bank plans to award scholarships every year, she said.
Vanessa said she never dreamed of going to college until she was selected for a scholarship. She plans to major in criminal justice studies and hopes to go into law enforcement. "I might become a police officer. As an officer, I believe I could help people," Vanessa said. She is leaning toward going to USC or UCLA.
Poets Frank Gaspar and Richard Garcia have received grants of $20,000 each from the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent agency created by Congress in 1965 to promote the growth of the arts.
Gaspar, 43, associate English professor at Long Beach City College, said he will use his grant to complete a book of poetry. The book, which is titled "Mass for Grace of Happy Death," is about half completed, Gaspar said.
He has been teaching at the college since 1977. His works have been published in numerous national publications, including The Nation and Massachusetts Review.
Garcia, 49, a native of San Francisco, is poet-in-residence at the Long Beach Art Museum, where he has been teaching poetry writing. He will use a portion of his grant to take college courses on writing for children. Two books of his poetry have been published, and his works have appeared in numerous magazines.
* Don Knabe, chief of staff for County Supervisor Deane Dana, has been inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame of Rock Island High School in Illinois. Knabe was one of six people chosen for their accomplishments since graduation. Knabe graduated in 1961. Knabe, who lives in Cerritos, was a member of the Cerritos City Council from 1980 to 1988. He was mayor in 1982 and 1986.
* Jeff N. Eckles, a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch in Long Beach, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Downtown Long Beach Associates. The 37-member board promotes business activity for the city.
* Bucky Dennis, owner of the Quiet Cannon restaurant, has been named the city of Montebello's 1990 corporate business person of the year. During the past three years, the restaurant contributed more than 2,000 meals and toys to the needy. Phillip Pace, owner of Pace Development Co., was named the city's small-business person of the year for his volunteer service to charitable organizations. He served as chairman of the Life Line Adult Day Care Center, which provides meals and nursing care to older adults.
* Former Artesia High School basketball star Ed O'Bannon has been honored as the 1990 Athlete of the Year by the Lakewood Youth Hall of Fame. O'Bannon, who led the Lakewood school to the state Division II boys basketball championship last year, was one of 35 Lakewood athletes, coaches and sports supporters recently honored by the group. Former Lakewood baseball player Mike Fitzgerald was given the Ten-Year Achievement Award. Fitzgerald is a catcher with the Montreal Expos.
* Cal State Long Beach professor Terrence G. Wiley has won the 1991 Outstanding Dissertations Competition sponsored by the National Assn. for Bilingual Education. Wiley, professor of educational psychology and administration, received the award for his dissertation, "Literacy, Biliteracy and Educational Achievement Among the Mexican Origin Population of the United States."
* Dr. Jackie See has been elected chief of staff of the Medical Center of La Mirada. See is assistant clinical professor of medicine at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.
* Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) has been appointed to the House Rules Committee for the 102nd Congress in Washington, D.C.