Cole Macias, 17, center, tutors Ghandi Negrete, 16, left, on Algebra II as they go over logarithms in the tutoring program at the SOY center located on Rea Elementary campus Thursday, March 1. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / March 1, 2012)

Editor's note: The following are from the SOY Scholarship Program alumni. Minimal edits have been made to preserve the writers' voices as it originally appeared at a December fundraiser.

Dear Guest,

First allow me to thank you for attending this event. My name is Juan Miguel and I am a former student of the SOY program. SOY to me was many things. It was the place where I would go do my homework after school. It was the reason I was so successful in my academics.

SOY was the place I would go socialize with my friends. SOY is the place where I met important people whom I built long-lasting relationships with. SOY was the reason I gave back to the community.

SOY is the reason that I know how to sail a boat and it is the reason I am educated about living a healthy lifestyle. SOY was the reason for many good aspects in my life and the list goes on but most importantly, SOY is the reason that I am in college today, attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, soon to graduate with a major in architectural engineering.

By far the most memorable experience from SOY was the weeklong field trip we took to visit college campuses in Northern California. The trip took place the summer of 2006, but I remember one day in particular: the day we visited Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. At the time I did not know what school I wanted to go to, but I already had an idea of what I wanted to major in. I had never heard of Cal Poly until that day.

I remember that out of all the schools we visited, that was the only school that we didn't have an official tour guide. We walked around reading the names of the buildings, trying to figure out all the departments of the school and picking up pamphlets to figure out the majors that they offered. Even though we had no one to officially show us around, as soon as I stepped foot on that campus and saw the architecture building, I instantly fell in love with it and that's when I knew that Cal Poly was the school I wanted to go to.

That experience went beyond the visit to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The real experience took place with Trevor, Silvia, and the rest of the amazing staff at SOY who made my dream of attending Cal Poly a reality through all their motivation and support.

I thank SOY for helping me fulfill my dream of getting to where I am today. Now, when SOY does their annual trip and stops to visit Cal Poly, I am the one showing them the school and I am reminded of the trip I took in 2006. Dreams like mine are made possible because of SOY and all of its supporters who funded the program.

I would like to see SOY stay open for the years to come to help youth reach their full potential and strive to become the best that they can, just as it did with me. I only wish I had the funds myself to help SOY stay financially afloat, but as of now, all I can give to this great program is my time and write my story to seek help from potential sponsors. I hope to one day become a sponsor of this program myself because this program is more than a regular investment, it's an investment in a student's future — the best type of investment there is.

Thank you,

Juan Miguel SOY Scholar, Class of 2007

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What SOY meant to me: hope

Dear SOY Patron,

What does a program like SOY mean to a young girl growing up in Costa Mesa? To a young Latina with two teen-mother older sisters? To a girl whose parents worked long hours in low-paying jobs?

To a girl like that, SOY means hope. It means a quiet place to study, a safe place to congregate with friends, a place to meet mentors, and a place to be empowered. Many of my high school memories take place at SOY. Whether it was playing pool, watching TV, or participating in the fitness program, SOY was always where the fun was happening. It was like my second family.

SOY was very helpful to my family and I. It was a place where I could have a quiet study area with knowledgeable tutors. I was in advanced classes all throughout high school, so neither my siblings nor my parents were able to help me proofread an essay or sort through difficult math problems.

SOY ingrained in me the idea that education was a way to move up in life. The staff always had high hopes for the students and told us that college was a reality for us — something we may not have believed without their encouragement. Once senior year came by, it was a given that I would apply to reputable universities and I attribute that to the SOY Scholarship Program.

I was accepted to many colleges, and with Trevor's guidance, I decided to attend the University of California, San Diego, the eighth top public university in the nation. Thanks to SOY, I started college with all the tools necessary to succeed.