Itzel Valdez, Class of 2019
Itzel matched with Wesleyan University through QuestBridge
Itzel recently graduated as her school's valedictorian. Below is the speech she gave during graduation:
Hello everyone. My name is Itzel Valdez and it is a great pleasure to represent the Class of 2019. Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to thank Mrs. Castro and Mr. V for representing and supporting us. Thank you to the staff and everyone who made this event possible tonight. Now, for those of you who don’t know me too well, I love to run, and high school has been a great run. From sessions with Mr.Gross, lunches with Ms.Goodman to college applications with Mrs.Ortega and time with our friends, the time has arrived. Congratulations to all of us!
As a class, we have all faced challenges that have brought our inner selves out and we managed to push through. As we all move on to the next race of life, whether it is college, work or family, we will face many more trials. Many of us will give in and want to quit, but I am here to remind everyone that no matter who you are, you have the potential to overcome any obstacle in your path. How would I know? I’ve done it. I am Latina, from the beautiful country of Mexico, a DACA recipient, and to top it off, a woman. And let me tell you, living under our current political leadership today has been a challenge. Living as a woman is a challenge. Being Mexican in this country is a challenge. Everyday, facing constant reminders that we are not good enough for this country, or do not have what it takes to live a satisfying life. It isn’t easy having to learn a whole new language, it isn’t easy making friends when some people view you as a criminal, it isn’t easy always worrying about a piece of paper that determines whether you can work or drive comfortably to the store. And it isn’t easy seeing my family, like many others, fight for what is known as the American Dream, every day working endless hours for a better life. But here I am tonight doing what people thought was impossible or undeserving. Many times along my run, I felt like giving up and just quitting. Just giving in to the hate and put downs that encompass society. But I didn’t, and I hope that you don’t either.
We are all human, we all have feelings, and dreams, and aspirations, and potential that should not be limited by willful ignorance, prejudice, and privilege. We all deserve equal treatment, respect, and a shot at life. But this isn’t always presented or guaranteed. We will have to fight for our dreams, and I believe that with the education we are being commemorated for tonight, we have the power to change the way things are. In countries around the world, an education like the one we have received is not accessible. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, about 264 million children do not have access to education of any kind. Our education is not a right, it is a privilege, and we are all extremely fortunate to be here tonight, because we are in a spot that many can only dream of. We all have great power, and I hope you use that power to transform not only your life, but the lives of others. Wherever you go and whatever you do, do it with a purpose and maintain your ground. Everyone has it within them to put up a fight, but not everyone will make that choice. Just know, you can. You can do what seems impossible.
Now, look at those who have come to celebrate your achievement tonight, and later on, or at some point, thank them. They are a reason you are here. In one way or another, they were a light in your darkest days. Gracias Mami, Papi, Cruz, y Daniela. Todo lo que hago es por ustedes, esta noche es por ustedes, y todo por venir es por ustedes. On behalf of the Class of 2019, thank you to all of the teachers, friends, families, coaches, staff, and ourselves for making tonight a reality. Graduates, I wish all of you the best of luck as you all embark on your new journey. You ran this far, don’t stop running, because trust me, you won’t know what you can achieve if you don’t run the course.
Alumni Success Stories
Carlos Valdovinos, Class of 2008
Hola! My name is Carlos Valdovinos and I am an alumnus from the class of 2008. My involvement with C5 Los Angeles started back in 2004, when it was known as Camp Paintrock. I was part of the Blackfeet cabin and my counselor was Kawika Maunupau. Back then, the C5 experience was limited to summer camp before high school, a college road trip, and various volunteering activities. Regardless, I learned so much from experiences.
After graduating C5, I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz for one semester. However, my partner and I were expecting a child and I made the decision to relocate back home. I transferred the few units gained at UCSC and enrolled at Citrus Community College. I spent 2 years at Citrus, and eventually transferred to California State University, Fullerton. It is at CSUF that I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. While in college, I worked various jobs to sustain my family. I went from being a dishwasher at Sizzler, to maintenance work for the City of Glendora, to eventually obtaining a paid internship with Los Angeles Metro.
I began my career with Metro in 2012 and my tenure lasted 5 years. After Metro, I worked for a year at Bassett Unified School District as a Personnel Analyst. Starting January 28th, 2019 I will begin a new position at Southern California Edison as a Talent Acquisition Consultant. Along with working full-time, I am also enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, where I am obtaining my Masters in Public Administration. When I am not working or studying I am usually hanging out with my 9 year daughter, whose name is Grace. We like to ride bikes, practice long division, and make each other laugh. I am also a part of the C5 Alumni Board and I volunteer some spare time with various C5 events.
Bryan Natividad, Class of 2012
My name is Bryan Natividad. I am a C5 graduate from the Class of 2012, whose journey with the program began in 2007 as a rising 8th grade student. Ever since my first summer with C5 I have proudly proclaimed my affiliations to both the Laramie and Sioux cabins; and call Hyatville, Wyoming, more specifically Camp Paintrock, my home away from home.
After culminating from C5 I traveled to Atlanta, GA where I matriculated into the Emory University, Class of 2016 – earning my B.A. in African American studies with a minor in Sociology. Post-graduation, I joined IBM as a Global Sales Incentives’ Analyst where, over the course of two years, I earned two gold awards in high-level, international business competitions: the Stevie Awards and the Globee Awards. Despite the professional development and financial security of IBM, however, I yearned for a particular platform to affect change and to exercise my ideals: academia. Currently, I am a first-year Sociology Ph.D. student at Brown University.
Since leaving Los Angeles, I have been involved with C5. During my first two years at Emory I had the privilege of serving as a counselor-in-training (CIT) and counselor. The following two years I stepped back from the counseling position in order to pursue and foster my research projects, but I continued to maintain contact with several of my student mentees. Post-graduation, I began to financially support C5 after being hired by IBM. Today, I provide as much assistance as I can to C5 as an organization, and the leaders themselves.
Brenda Honorato, Class of 2012
Hello C5LA! My name is Brenda Honorato, I am an alum from the class of 2012! I started my involvement with the program in 7th grade, I was in the Absaroka cabin flint year (2007) and Shoshone cabin my Lantern year (2008).
After graduating from C5 in 2012, I attended Cal State LA and graduated in 2017 with my B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice. I was a CIT the summer of 2012 which was an absolutely amazing learning opportunity!
I am currently a Housing Coordinator at a non-profit organization called Brilliant Corners in Downtown LA. I work in collaboration with case management agencies to house the homeless population. I love helping others, I love what I do and C5 has definitely had an influence in leading me to take this path! Thank you C5LA for making me community focused and challenge ready!
Mark Sosing, Class of 2011
“Time never exists on its own. It’s what happens in it”. My name is Mark Sosing and I believe that my time with C5LA has been sensational. Being part of the program since 2007, I had no idea of the un tapped potential I had in becoming the leader that I am today. Five years of first time experiences, mapping the paths of my career choice and turning friends into family, the results of this program are unbelievable.
I graduated from this program in 2011. I had become so attached to the program that I worked for C5LA in the summers of 2012, 2014 and 2016 as a college mentor, camp rotating counselor and camp Black-Feet cabin counselor, respectively.
Alongside my involvement with C5LA, I attended Glendale Community College in 2011 and transferred to California State University of Los Angeles (CSULA) in 2014. I graduated with a bachelor in science in Business Administration emphasis in Accounting in 2016.
Prior to my last year in CSULA, I attended one of C5LA’s annual GALA events (currently known as Urban Campfire). Through discussions with many of the attendee’s, I was fortunate to have met the honoree of the night, Scott Sachs. Scott is the Los Angeles managing partner at the national accounting firm - CohnReznick LLP. After exchanging contacts, I was invited to the CohnReznick summer leadership program, summer externship program and ultimately, invited to sit for an interview. I am proud to say that I have been with the firm for about two years and I am thankful for C5LA for giving me the foundation to kick start my career.
If I can summarize one piece of advice that I learned throughout my involvement with C5LA, it is to keep believing in who you are because others will believe in you. From the board of directors to the camp staff, the support system comes full circle. I am beyond grateful for the people that believed/are believing in me.
Jessica Arevalo, Class of 2007
My name is Jessica Arevalo and I am an alumn from the class of 2007. My involvement started in 2003 when I was one of 72 students who was selected to join the program and leave to Camp Paintrock for four weeks. That summer I experienced a lot of first-time memories: leaving home, riding horses, rappelling off rocks, and camping outside in a tent, to name a few. C5LA Youth Foundation at that time was called Camp Paintrock and was still developing its 5-year program, which has flourished today. It was at camp where I discovered more about myself and realized the infinite possibilities my future held.
After graduating from high school, I went to Glendale Community College where I received my Associates in culinary arts. I worked in the Food and Hospitality Industry for about eight years, but I felt something was missing. After hearing news of C5LA moving their office near my old high school, I made the leap to reconnect with the program. In the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to work with C5LA and assist the program directors with their planning that year. During my fellowship, I traveled with our sophomores for their Road to College summer experience, juniors at their ACTNOW Summit, and even worked as kitchen staff at Camp Paintrock. After 14 years I finally made it back to camp, and let me just say, it was truly a humbling and inspiring experience. Last summer, I chaperoned our freshman leaders at their Bridges summer experience where we spent a week backpacking in the wilderness. When I was in the program we did not have this summer experience available to us and so, as our leaders experienced new challenges that summer, so did I.
Since working with C5, I went back to school and currently am a student at Cal State University, Northridge. I aim to obtain my B.S. in Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality Management in the Spring of 2020. Although my journey has taken me through many curves and turns, the experiences I have made with C5 have helped me grow into the person I am today and continues to inspire my path. I wish to continue working with C5 and volunteer as much as possible because I realize now what was missing all this time. Giving back to this amazing foundation has come full circle for me. I have found that mentoring C5 leaders and sharing my story have given me purpose and direction as I begin a new endeavor.
Where Are Our Alumni Now?
As alumni outreach efforts expand, we are collecting data on our alumni, the schools they are attending, the majors they are enrolled in, and graduation rates, among other things. The chart below shows the most updated information on alum that have shared their current higher education enrollment.