The Bay Area has no shortage of amazing teenagers. I should know. I work daily with youth in six Alameda County middle and high schools who lead efforts to make their schools safer and healthier for all students.
This spring, TransForm and GJEL Accident Attorneys went looking for two outstanding high school students to honor with our first-ever Community Involvement Scholarship.
I’m thrilled to say, we found them.
In acknowledgement of their remarkable academic achievements and stellar records of service, the winners of the GJEL and TransForm Community Involvement Scholarship are Andrea Rivas Iraheta of San Rafael and Lucy Liang of Oakland.
This $2500 scholarship is awarded to two college-bound Bay Area students who show a strong interest in bettering their community through either volunteer service, participation in local programs, or activism. The scholarship money can be used for any college-related expenses in the upcoming year.
Selecting the winners was a difficult process. All of the applicants shared empowering stories and showed a clear commitment to pursuing higher education while serving their communities.
So please allow me to introduce these two incredible youth leaders, whose determination and accomplishments clearly make them deserving recipients of this award.
Andrea Rivas Iraheta
For Andrea Rivas Iraheta, the journey started at the age of eight when she was given to a ‘coyote’ that was paid to get her and six other children to America. When she entered fourth grade in Marin County, she struggled with the language barrier – as did her mother, who was unable to help her learn English. A dedicated teacher worked extra, unpaid hours to teach her English.
“That journey has defined my entire identity,” said Rivas. “My experience as an immigrant student in this country has fueled my work teaching English to Spanish-speaking women.”
Rivas believes that immigrants shouldn’t have to rely on good will to gain the skills needed for success. She has channeled her immigration experience to break down language and resource barriers for Latina women in Marin County. Through her Breaking Barriers program, Rivas works to ensure Latina women obtain the knowledge and language skills necessary to help move their families forward.
“With each step I take towards college, I hope to change America’s vision of the children who brave the desert each day, and to become a leader in the new America that celebrates the potential of every child,” said Rivas.
Rivas graduated from Terra Linda High School and will attend Willamette University this fall, with plans to major in Sociology and minor in Criminal Justice.
Also the child of immigrants, Lucy Liang got her first job in eighth grade to help ease her mother’s burden of supporting the family. She sought to break out of her family’s gender expectations by volunteering at Chabot Space and Science Center, finding the resources to learn about science and engineering through service to the community.
Liang has worked tirelessly over her high school career to provide opportunities for female students in Oakland to strive towards careers in the STEM fields. As a Galaxy Explorers volunteer, she spends her weekends presenting science demonstrations for museum visitors, and also travels to local libraries and elementary schools to bring free science education to kids and adults who can’t get to the museum.
"Contributing back to the community is significant to me because my community has shaped my morals and goals,” said Liang. “Without the opportunities I was given by youth programs and supporters, I would not have the confidence I have today to strive for higher education and especially strive to become an engineer.”
Ultimately, Liang wants to use her education to develop and lead youth programs for students who are limited by finances or accessibility, and especially girls who might not otherwise have the opportunity or encouragement to pursue STEM fields.
Liang graduated from American Indian Public High School and will attend University of California, Irvine this fall, with plans to major in Computer Science.
Investing in youth leaders to create the communities of the future
I’m proud to honor these two students for their work breaking down barriers for Spanish-speaking immigrants and low-income girls. And I’m excited to see what they’re able to accomplish in the future, to make an even greater impact on their communities.
At TransForm, we believe that investing in youth is essential to creating the communities we want for our future – communities that offer not only great transportation choices but also opportunity for everyone, especially those who have historically faced the highest barriers. We are tremendously appreciative of GJEL Accident Attorneys for their generosity and leadership in making the Community Involvement Scholarship possible. Without their partnership, we would not have been able to invest in these incredible youth leaders.
You can get involved, too. Learn more about our work to engage youth as leaders through Alameda County Safe Routes to School. Support TransForm by investing in our work today.