On Education: Latino students shining brightly

If Adelante Latinos — an organization launched in 2004 to promote and celebrate the success of Glendale Unified's Latino students — needs a poster child, Gabrielle Granados would fill the role admirably.

The 17-year-old is set to graduate from Crescenta Valley High School next month with a 4.2 GPA, earned while captaining the varsity swim team and working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the Verdugo Hills YMCA.

Gabrielle, who was raised in La Crescenta, has accepted a half-tuition scholarship to USC, where she intends to study occupational therapy and gerontology.

She and her older sister are the first in their family to attend college. Gabrielle credits the school staff — especially her mentor, Crescenta Valley High School counselor Maria Mendez — for connecting her with resources and encouraging her to apply to top programs and scholarship opportunities.

"Many of us don't get that push from our parents because they don't know the mechanics of everything," said Gabrielle, whose grandparents are from Mexico.

In many ways, it's that "push" that is at the heart of the mission of Adelante Latinos, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last Sunday with a send-off for 140 high-performing, soon-to-graduate Latino students.

In 2003, then-Glendale Unified teacher Cathie Montoro and school board member Mary Boger attended an awards dinner hosted by the Committee for Armenian Students in Public Schools and were inspired to honor Latino students the same way.

"We thought, 'What a wonderful celebration,'" Montoro said. "We want to encourage our Latino families so they know that we support them equally, and [show them] that there is a path to college."

The first Adelante Latino event took place the following year at Clark Magnet High School, where several dozen seniors from Hoover, Glendale, Crescenta Valley and Clark Magnet high schools who had earned GPAs of 3.0 or higher were honored for their accomplishments.

Early supporters included former Assemblyman Dario Frommer and former Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante.

Each year, the number of students recognized has grown, said Montoro, adding that this year's cohort of 140 is a record.

"While the percentage of Latino students in our city and district has gone down, the number of high-achieving students has risen each year," Montoro said.

On Sunday, marquee guests included Scott Ochoa, the current city manager of Glendale, and Rick Reyes, who immigrated to Southern California from Sonora, Mexico, as a child and later went on to join the Glendale Police Department. Reyes was elected to the Glendale City Council in 1993 and became the city's first Latino mayor in 1995.

Still, nobody could outshine the students. Among them was Crescenta Valley High School senior Matthew Reyes, the youngest of four siblings and the first on track to graduate from college. The recognition from Adelante Latinos motivated him to keep his grades up, Reyes said. He starts at Cal State Northridge in the fall and hopes to become a cardiologist.

"I think it is encouraging for Latino students," Reyes said. "It gives them something to look forward to when they are a senior."

Gabrielle Granados said that many of those honored Sunday are breaking boundaries.

"We are overcoming whatever obstacles our parents or our grandparents had when they immigrated," Gabrielle said. "We are going to college, which is all they ever wanted for us. We are making them proud."

Right along with the rest of the Glendale Unified community.


MEGAN O'NEIL is a former education reporter for Times Community News and a recent graduate of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She may be reached at megan.oneil.06@gmail.com.

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