Local teen's hard work pays off

COSTA MESA — Elizabeth Cipriano couldn't keep her eyes off the award certificate on her lap or stop uttering nearly the same refrain to everyone she saw.

"That's my name right there," she said, still shocked.

The Estancia High School senior won the Mae French Memorial Award scholarship for excellence in culinary arts Friday afternoon at Coastline Regional Occupational Program's (ROP) Distinguished Student Recognition Celebration at the Neighborhood Community Center in Costa Mesa.

The ROP program gives mainly high school students, ages 16 and above, career experience through classes with professionals in the field they want to pursue.

At the eighth annual banquet, more than 150 students were recognized from the five school districts around Orange County — including Newport-Mesa Unified — served by ROP. Less than two dozen of those were chosen for scholarships.

For Elizabeth, the $200 scholarship from ROP was a validation of her hard work. During high school, she took five ROP classes and she dedicated herself to each, she said, recalling late nights finishing homework and missed opportunities to spend time with friends.

Elizabeth puts 100% into every project she does, said Heather Testerman, a chef instructor of the baking and pastry class.

"She's just a hard working, honest, genuine good person that I want to see do well," she said.

That will to work hard came from her parents, Elizabeth said.

Although no one in her family has graduated from high school, her parents, Ignacia Moreno and Felipe Cipriano, always told Elizabeth her job was to go to school.

"My parents always told me to be the best person I can be and learn as much as I can be, and ROP has helped me so much," Elizabeth said.

For her parents, the award was the first of many proud moments to come.

"We just want to say 'keep going in the right direction,' " Moreno said. "We can't wait for graduation day and in four years, college graduation."

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