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Five PUSD Seniors to Attend College on Full Posse Scholarships

Published on Thursday, February 22, 2024 | 11:41 am

Five high school seniors from the Pasadena Unified School District have been awarded full four-year college scholarships from the Posse Los Angeles Foundation, the district announced Thursday.

The students are among a select group of Los Angeles-area recipients of the prestigious Posse Scholarship this year, which were awarded from a pool of thousands of nominees.

The 2024 Posse scholars from Pasadena will each attend one of the Posse Foundation’s partner colleges and universities across the nation on a full scholarship.

They will also receive support from the foundation throughout their college careers.

“We are proud of the hard work and achievements of our 2024 Posse scholars,” said Interim Superintendent Elizabeth J. Blanco, Ed.D. “They represent everything that’s possible in PUSD: graduates who are critical thinkers, communicators, and problem solvers who are prepared for college and beyond.”

Here’s more about the young scholars:

Giselle Alcantar, Blair High School, plans to study kinesiology in college and her Posse scholarship already has her moving in the right direction. Giselle is enrolled in Blair’s rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme which, she says, is preparing her for the academic challenges she will soon face at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

A leader on many levels, Giselle is a manager of the girls basketball team, captain of the softball team, and worked for the PUSD’s Mentors for L.I.F.E. program mentoring elementary and middle school students who struggle with attendance, behavior or academics. The daughter of a PUSD educator, Giselle also spent two summers helping teach English and U.S. history as a teacher’s assistant at Blair’s International Academy.

Giselle’s mom, Veronica Alcantar, has been a PUSD dual-language teacher for 10 years, working for elementary, middle, and now, for PUSD’s Community Schools. Veronica said, “We are proud of Giselle’s resilience and know that she will make a difference in people’s lives.”

Giselle passed along a few words of wisdom, saying younger students should not be afraid to reach out for help because “teachers, counselors, office staff, and classmates are your support system.”

Vincent Velazco, Blair High School, will soon be attending Pepperdine University and majoring in sports medicine because he says he has always been interested in sports and exercise in general. He credits his school, teachers and counselors for giving him a game plan to face challenges ahead.

In high school, Vincent played varsity soccer, worked on the yearbook committee, participated in the College Access Plan and was selected for UCLA’s Educational Outreach Program. He says his counselor, Ms. Destiny Mendoza, always goes “above and beyond” to support him. He adds, “Her generosity has had a significant influence on my path, and I am appreciative of the advice she provides me.”

Vincent also said Ms. Mendoza connected him with college and financial aid workshops which opened up a wealth of opportunities for him.

Mphatso Johnson, John Muir High School Early College Magnet, is on track to simultaneously earn his high school diploma along with an Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Pasadena City College. With the help of his full-tuition Posse scholarship, Mphatso plans to major in psychology at Pepperdine University and eventually become a lawyer with a career in law enforcement.

“A piece of advice I would like to pass on to younger students is to keep persevering, keep trying, and learn to accept that failure helps build success,” Mphatso noted. “Just because you may fail at something time and time again doesn’t mean that you give up.”

Mphatso has clearly found success with time management, juggling several extracurricular activities during his time at PUSD. A student in Muir’s Arts, Entertainment and Media Academy, Mphatso is also on the water polo and swim team, a member of the marching band, an Eagle Scout, a youth group leader, a member of Outward Bound and participated in the local non-profit College Access Plan. He also says his school experience helped him discover the importance of teamwork and community.

Isaak Uriu, John Muir High School Early College Magnet, is headed to Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, NY this fall and plans to major in political science. Isaak says he hopes he can “one day spark change” and he’s already done so in his own community by creating the PUSD Student Assembly initiative as a member of PUSD’s Student Think Tank. He also worked as an intern at Field Elementary.

Enrolled in Muir’s Business Academy, Isaak is Vice President of Muir’s Associated Student Body, a member of the water polo team and a four-year member of Upward Bound which “strives to give students from first-generation, low-income backgrounds the tools and the opportunity to attend college.”

Isaak wants to pursue a career as an immigration or environmental lawyer. He says his high school experience has taught him “to be flexible and embrace change.”

Zoe Sanchez (Pasadena High School, PHS) will major in business management with a minor in entrepreneurship and design at Tulane University this fall. Eventually, Zoe hopes to pursue a career as a fashion designer who has a cultural impact on her community. Becoming a Posse scholar and winning first place in the Pasadena MLK Community Coalition art contest, she has already had an impact on her school community.

Zoe is also a three-year member of the PHS soccer team, president of both the Fashion and Leo clubs, and vice president of the Business Club. She’s a member of Upward Bound as well as the College Access Plan.

During her high school experience, Zoe says she has “learned that no one can stop you. You have the power to make your dreams come true and ultimately make a difference.”

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