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.
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.
Juan Miguel SOY Scholar, Class of 2007
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.
I cannot overstate the impact that the SOY Girls program has had on the person I am today. It was a space where girls could talk about issues like dating, health and hygiene, self-esteem, and self-empowerment. It felt safe to talk about anything I had on my mind and I knew that I would receive sound advice from Ivis, the program coordinator.
When Trevor informed us that he wanted to take a group of us SOY Girls to hike Mt. Whitney, I was not planning to sign up. I was afraid I would not be able to do it, but the center staff helped me get the courage to take part on the trip. Little did I know that it would be an amazing test to my physical and mental strength.
I had never been much of an athlete before the trip, but training for it made me feel great and put me on a path to become a healthier person. At 4'9", I was the smallest girl on the trip. The summit was excruciatingly difficult, but I was determined to finish along with the other SOY Girls.
I realized that it was my mind that made it more difficult. My legs could keep going, even if at a snail's pace, but my mind kept telling me it was too hard. I overcame the thoughts of failure, and within days I was at the peak of the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
It felt great, so great that I was excited to do it twice my junior and senior year of high school. I use the Mt. Whitney trip to remind me that I can do anything I set my mind to. The toughest obstacle to overcome is your own fear.
Today I am a UCSD alumna, working at the UCSD Multimodal Imaging Laboratory as a staff research associate. I have been published in scientific journals for the work I have done in MEG and MRI studies investigating how the brain processes language. I also volunteer weekly at a nonprofit organization aimed to help underprivileged inner-city youth become first-generation college students. I am very dedicated to this San Diego-based program because I know firsthand how helping children go to college can impact their lives positively and creates a better future.
Thank you for your time and for learning more about the Save Our Youth Center.
SOY Scholar Class of 2006
A Sense of Community
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Angelica Hernandez and I was part of the SOY Scholarship Program for my senior year of high school. Although I was not part of SOY for a long time, I felt a sense of community with people who shared the same goals that I do.
A friend of mine mentioned the SOY program to me at the end of my junior year in high school. Anxious to be able to begin raising money for college, I immediately submitted an application. As soon as I was accepted, I learned about opportunities in which to become more involved with the SOY program and with my community.
One of my favorite memories about the SOY program was being able to attend the Latino Youth Conference in 2010. Through the SOY program, I was able to be a part of the conference, along with students from Costa Mesa High School and Estancia High School, and hear motivational speeches from Latinos who had succeeded in pursuing their dreams.
These people were once in my shoes. Hearing their speeches inspired me to believe that if I set my mind to something, I can achieve it by working hard and staying focused. As a member of the SOY program, I felt a connection to these students who were just like me. They all want to make a difference in the world, without being hindered by stereotypes or financial obstacles.
After graduating Newport Harbor High School, I went on to study human biology at the University of California, San Diego. I am currently a pre-med student and recently started my second year. I was able to use my scholarship money to pay for some textbooks and also a laptop, which I needed.
Not only did SOY help me financially, I was also able to build connections with others as well as apply the skills I learned, in college.
The SOY program is truly life-changing and useful in every sense of the word. The desire to help my community, become involved and build connections all came from my association with the SOY program. I know that each and every high school student who is currently in SOY, or will become part of it, will definitely acquire skills that will allow them to flourish in society.
SOY Scholar, Class of 2010
SOY changes lives
To the generous patrons at this table:
First of all, thank you for attending this event. As I am sure you are aware, the SOY program is going through some rough times, to say the least, and your presence at this event is appreciated by many people. People who work for SOY, and people who have gone through the program.
As a student who participated, I can assure you firsthand that SOY has changed many lives in positive ways, and has become a staple in the community from Estancia to Costa Mesa to Newport Harbor.
Trevor has asked select SOY alumni to write these letters for you to read, in order to convey insight from those who actually went through SOY. I can honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, that SOY has changed the lives of kids who could have gone down a much different path. And for the students who were already working in the right direction, SOY encouraged them to do even better and held them to the absolute highest standards.
Despite how much Trevor talks up the SOY program and the incredible way it has affected students, he cannot possibly speak highly enough about it. Words simply fall short of how great SOY is and the impact it has had.
My name is Charlie Umansky, and I graduated from Estancia High School in June of 2011. I was a member of the SOY scholarship program from 2008 until graduation. SOY played a significant role with my grades, and I received straight As through high school, took on eight Advanced Placement classes, and graduated at the top 2% of my class.
I am currently studying business administration with a concentration in finance at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
SOY helped me develop an effective work ethic, one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. If you or anyone you know has any more questions about me or about the SOY program, I will most readily be available to answer them through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again, and enjoy your evening.
Charles L. Umansky
SOY Scholar, Class of 2011