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On Education: Latino students shining brightly

May 24, 2013|By Megan O'Neil
(Megan O'Neil )

If Adelante Latinos — an organization launched in 2004 to promote and celebrate the success of Glendale Unified's Latino students — needs a poster child, Gabrielle Granados would fill the role admirably.

The 17-year-old is set to graduate from Crescenta Valley High School next month with a 4.2 GPA, earned while captaining the varsity swim team and working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the Verdugo Hills YMCA.

Gabrielle, who was raised in La Crescenta, has accepted a half-tuition scholarship to USC, where she intends to study occupational therapy and gerontology.

She and her older sister are the first in their family to attend college. Gabrielle credits the school staff — especially her mentor, Crescenta Valley High School counselor Maria Mendez — for connecting her with resources and encouraging her to apply to top programs and scholarship opportunities.

"Many of us don't get that push from our parents because they don't know the mechanics of everything," said Gabrielle, whose grandparents are from Mexico.

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In many ways, it's that "push" that is at the heart of the mission of Adelante Latinos, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last Sunday with a send-off for 140 high-performing, soon-to-graduate Latino students.

In 2003, then-Glendale Unified teacher Cathie Montoro and school board member Mary Boger attended an awards dinner hosted by the Committee for Armenian Students in Public Schools and were inspired to honor Latino students the same way.

"We thought, 'What a wonderful celebration,'" Montoro said. "We want to encourage our Latino families so they know that we support them equally, and [show them] that there is a path to college."

The first Adelante Latino event took place the following year at Clark Magnet High School, where several dozen seniors from Hoover, Glendale, Crescenta Valley and Clark Magnet high schools who had earned GPAs of 3.0 or higher were honored for their accomplishments.

Early supporters included former Assemblyman Dario Frommer and former Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante.

Each year, the number of students recognized has grown, said Montoro, adding that this year's cohort of 140 is a record.

"While the percentage of Latino students in our city and district has gone down, the number of high-achieving students has risen each year," Montoro said.

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