Thursday, April 12, 2018

Surrounded by the concrete sprawl of South El Monte, and staring daily at the rows of large trash bins in the alleyways behind her apartment building, 17-year-old Sandra Amezcua Rocha could only see green. As in trees, parks and a sustainable, clean environment.

“The kids here don’t know anything about the outside, just the cement,” Sandra laments. “I want to be able to come back and show them that there is more than just the gray of the suburbs. To have access to renewable energy at little to no cost … to be around trees and not trash.”

Sandra is one of 30 High School students selected as 2018’s Edison Scholars each the recipient of $40,000 undergraduate college scholarships to continue their education in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) field.

“Coming home and seeing my family exhausted, I knew the only way out is to get an education,” said Sandra, a senior at South El Monte High School, who would find refuge in the school’s library to finish her homework and projects.

“You said you wanted to help bring renewable energy to disadvantaged communities and we believe in that too,” said Pedro Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO, as he made the presentation amid ‘go Sandra!’ cheers. “We are very proud of you and what you want to do for our community. And we are so happy that we can help make your dream of college come true.”

The dreams of other local high school students are likewise being recognized.

Lynwood High School graduating senior Abieiden “Abi” Lopez is passionate about fighting climate change and promoting a switch to renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. She plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering as she enters Stanford this coming Fall semester. Abi has already gleaned college experiences serving as a team leader at UCLA’s tech-camp as well as participating in MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science program.

Her Lynwood High classmate, Lesly Leon is passionate about medicine and is choosing chemistry as her path forward in developing cures, particularly where environmental and biological factors are an issue and cause. She looks to serve a range of underrepresented communities, introducing them to the power of science, and its ability to change the prognosis of cancer detection from despair to hope. Lesly is deciding whether to begin that journey at either Stanford or Brown.

Best friends and classmates at Carson’s California Academy of Mathematics and Science, Avey Songco and Shavonna Jackson have also been named Edison Scholars.

Avey, who will attend Georgia Tech this fall, intends to pursue a career in mechanical engineering with the intent to design advanced prosthetics enhancing the lives of people missing limbs. She is driven by her own experience, strappd in a discomforting brace as a teen, to correct scoliosis. It was her Doctor who first showed Avey pictures of children in prosthetics.

“Learning that engineers designed apparatuses made to enrich the lives of others and better society was truly inspiring.”

Shavonna, who has witnessed her dad’s daily injections for treatment of Type 2 diabetes, plans to major in biomedical engineering at either Harvard or Yale.

Last summer, Shavonna completed a biomedical internship that focused on endocrinology and beta cells at the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The experience, she said, pushed her to want to learn more about life-changing medical conditions like diabetes.

“I see a need for novel treatments and innovations for diseases that plague our society and I feel drawn to do something about it.”

These 5 local High School seniors are among the 610 recipients of scholarships from Edison International, parent of SCE, having been awarded $8.7 million since 2006. To be eligible, high school seniors must live in SCE’s service area, carry a minimum 3.0 GPA and intend to pursue STEM related studies at a four-year college and demonstrate financial need. Applications for the next round of scholarships will be available in the fall.

Sandra Amezcua Rocha’s sister, Isaura, 23, who flew in from New York where she works as an immigration paralegal to help surprise her little sister, appreciates a goal being achieved.

“It’s really exciting and I’m really proud,” she said. “She is such a hardworking student.”

Sandra’s mother, Soledad Rocha, recalls how the fourth of her six children was always aware of her surroundings, especially nature and the importance of recycling and the environment. “That’s what makes her so special.”

“This [scholarship] means a new beginning for her to have a bright future,” said Sandra’s father, Jose Amezcua. “We are very happy and we want to thank Edison for making these scholarships available.”

So far, Sandra has been accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA. She is still waiting to hear back from Yale before deciding where she will pursue her environmental studies degree.

This [scholarship] means … security and hope for something great,” she said. “It’s also for the other kids, to never give up.”