Student: Robert Martinez
Cathedral High School
As the son of a single-father, Robert Martinez has worked hard to make sure his grades paved the road to a brighter future. He attended Santa Teresita Catholic School in Boyle Heights from kindergarten to eighth grade before continuing his journey at Cathedral High School.
Robert received a scholarship from STEP in September 2013. It helped his father afford school for him and has allowed him access to the organizations that Cathedral has to offer for their students. Between class work and clubs, Robert is making his father proud.
Robert Martinez Sr. made it clear to his son early in life that he needs to work hard if he wanted to one day go on to college. It has been his dream as a father to see his son walk across the stage to accept his college diploma.
Mr. Martinez worried when it came time for his son to transition from a single-teacher structure to a multiple-teacher structure. Robert, however, was not worried about the adjustment. He graduated from Santa Teresita with over a 3.0 and has maintained a 3.5 GPA as freshmen at Cathedral.
Robert’s dream is to go to earn a degree in engineering. Originally, Robert assumed he would attend University of Southern California, since it was local. But after visiting campuses with his high school throughout his first semester, he set his sights on Stanford.
“My son and I have been together since he was five years old and I always thought he wasn’t going to leave or go across the country,” Mr. Martinez said. “I understand that he wants to do something with his life and I’m very proud of him.”
As a freshman, Robert has continued to flourish, working towards his dream of attending college. At Cathedral, he is involved in Club Pag-asa and the Math club. Club Pag-asa is a nonprofit that raises money for the Bahay Pag-asa youth centers in the Philippines. His chapter is responsible for providing sporting equipment and learning materials to the centers.
He is also heavily involved in the math club on his campus. The club participates in mathematic competitions and recognizes individual members for their achievements.
With three years to go at Cathedral, the Success Through Education Program is excited to see how Robert will continue to grow as a student.
Teacher – John Beltramo
The prospects looked grim. Marlene was graduating from the eighth grade at Nativity in the spring of 2005, and it did not seem possible for her to attend a private high school the following September. Marlene’s father and mother (both of whom worked staggered shifts at their jobs to help raise four teenagers) could barely afford the tuition while Marlene and her younger brother were going to Nativity, and with Marlene moving on to join her older siblings in high school, her parents simply could not pay the much steeper costs of sending three kids onto private high schools.
In most circumstances, this type of situation would be unfortunate but not tragic; families that cannot afford a private high school could always send their children to the local public school. However, Marlene’s local school was plagued with drugs and violence, and had a dropout rate of over fifty percent. Marlene, the valedictorian of her Nativity class, appeared to be facing a grim educational future – that is, until Ron Crimins and the STEP program intervened.
Mr. Crimins enlisted the help of a generous sponsor who covered the part of Marlene’s tuition that her parents could not afford, and with this significant assistance, Marlene was able to graduate (with honors) from St. Mary’s Academy in 2009. She is currently studying mechanical engineering in her second year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
As a teacher in Nativity’s junior high, I’d always felt blessed to teach truly wonderful students, but much of my sense of fulfillment and accomplishment actually came from the people who make up STEP. In most inner city private elementary schools, junior high instructors labor day in and day out to teach their students the knowledge and morality needed to succeed at the next level, only to send those students onto public high schools – which often fail them academically, and are plagued with drug and gang problems. Because of STEP, however, I knew that the vast majority of my students would be given the assistance necessary for them to attend a private high school, and that the great efforts Nativity makes in nurturing the intellect of those students would be continued at places like St. Mary’s Academy and others.
Fortunately for Nativity, STEP has made Marlene’s story quite common among recent graduates. Indeed, classmates of Marlene who also received scholarships through STEP in the spring of 2005 have also graduated from private high schools and are now currently attending such universities as UCLA, Georgia Tech, UC Riverside, Mount St. Mary’s, and Loyola Marymount. The success story being played out each year at Nativity is simple yet effective; strong leadership and teaching coupled with generous financial assistance from programs like STEP get inner city kids what they need to graduate high school and reach college, which in turn strengthens the future of our whole community.
Principal – Antonio Felix
In South Los Angeles, receiving a quality education is the only opportunity many students have to overcome their poverty. Although there seems to be many options in the community, making the wrong choice of high school could be costly. For example, the local public school where many Nativity graduates would be assigned to attend has a graduation rate of 51%. The other two nearest high schools’ graduation rates are 42% and 35%. On average, less than 3% of the students at these three high schools are scoring at the proficient or advanced performance level in math.
However, the subpar education at these local schools is not the only problem; drugs, gang activity, and violence are among the other obstacles students need to confront and overcome if they expect to graduate. To many people, these circumstances are an injustice but to the families in the Vermont-Slauson community it is a reality.
This reality, however, was not acceptable for Ron Crimins and STEP. Mr. Crimins and the Success Through Education Program, Inc., (STEP) has truly been a blessing to the families at Nativity School. The generosity of Mr. Crimins and STEP donors has made a significant impact on the lives of sponsored students. Many of these students are the first in their families to go to high school, graduate, and then go to college.
Although the problem is obvious, many parents choose not to send their child to a private high school because they cannot afford the significant increase in tuition from elementary to high school. This always worried me as a teacher in Nativity’s junior high. My biggest fear was that after all of Nativity’s hard work in preparing the students and the parents’ sacrifices, these students would go on to neighboring public high schools. Nevertheless, I always believed in Mr. Crimins’ ability to share the students’ stories and their needs with prospective STEP supporters and in his ability to find sponsors of hope and opportunity for these children.
Student – Ms. Jazmin Riestra
Graduate of Nativity School, 2008
My name is Jazmin Riestra and I am a graduate of Nativity School’s class of 2008. It is a privilege to say that because of STEP and the Pathfinders, I will be starting my senior year of high school at Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto.
Located in the heart of Los Angeles, it is this school’s mission to provide a quality, affordable, comprehensive, college prep private education to young women. Thanks to the generosity of the Success Through Education Program sponsors, I have been able to receive a quality education at Bishop Conaty.
A lifelong commitment to learning, values, responsible citizenship, and community service are among the many benefits that I have received by attending a private high school. Bishop Conaty has provided me with many opportunities to grow as a student and as an individual so that I can be successful in college. Along with being the class Treasurer, I am a school Ambassador and a member of CSF and the Spanish Honor Society. Thank you for investing in my future!
STEP Scholar Alumnus – Ms. Marisol Gonzalez
Economic sponsorship from STE helped me get to where I am today, starting out as a student and now alumnus of Nativity School and St. Mary’s Academy. Nativity School’s rigorous academic curriculum and strong academic support provided me the foundation to go onto high school.
I arrived from Mexico City, Mexico at the age of three. I lived with both my parents and four siblings in South Los Angeles. My family worked hard to pursue their dreams of opening a family business. Unfortunately, we were left with broken dreams. Therefore, my family was left to work sewing at clothing factories, making bread at bakeries, and either cleaning or caring for children in private homes. When my mother arrived to this country, she wanted to provide me with a quality education, a quality of upmost importance. There was one limitation, however – the financial aspect. Given our strong desire, I enrolled at Nativity thanks to STEP’s sponsorship, as well as my mother’s commitment to selling nachos, three times a week, and being nicknamed “the nacho lady.”
That was my first building block for the path to success. From our single room apartment, I completed my homework assignments atop my lap. Rewardingly, I constantly received “Student of the Month” awards in the back of our monthly newsletter. In the classrooms, I learned key aspects of life: perseverance, determination, gratitude, commitment to oneself, teamwork, and exploring outside one’s boundaries.
After my graduation in 2000, I entered St. Mary’s Academy and graduated in 2004. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Loyola Marymount University in 2008. Currently, I am pursuing a law school seat for the 2012 class, while working as a legal clerk at the law firm of Ford, Walker, Haggerty & Behar.