Public Housing Grads Honored at Banquet

Six residents of San Fernando Gardens public housing complex were among recent high school graduates from across Los Angeles recognized at a city Housing Authority banquet.

Jose Gaspar, Anthony Mendoza, Alberto Padilla, Salvador Omar Monteon, Edith Sarvaia and Maria Valencia represented San Fernando Gardens at the banquet, which honored 95 graduates from the city's 17 public housing sites.

The banquet "was cool," said Valencia, 18, who graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys and said she plans to attend Cal State Northridge to study child psychology. "Everybody was happy," she added.

Gaspar said he's considering studying for a year at a trade school to learn automotive repair skills and eventually hopes to become an X-ray technician.

"I guess I've got to be responsible and make big choices now," the 18-year-old San Fernando High School graduate said.

He said living in public housing is not always conducive to studying. Public housing sites have high dropout rates, making it all the more necessary to highlight success stories, officials and students said.

"When I first moved here, nine years ago, it was really bad," Gaspar said. "It got better. . . . I wasn't gonna just drop out and get into negative stuff."

Housing Authority officials said the idea for a banquet arose from efforts by Blue Sky Holguin, a resident of the Aliso Village public housing complex in Boyle Heights, who has honored graduates there in recent years.

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