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Laptops to Young Scholarship Winners

Laptops to Young Scholarship Winners

Emotions Swirl as Local Doctor Awards Laptops to Young Scholarship Winners. Tears, joy and shouts of glee mark the 7th year of Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela’s popular elementary school scholarship program.

One girl wept with joy. Another student solemnly trudged to the front of the school assembly, then cracked a wide grin and triumphantly raised his brand new laptop into the air.

Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela and Student

Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela and Student

As parents snapped photos and classmates whooped and applauded, six students at Patricia Beatty Elementary School received free laptop computers Friday afternoon as part of Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela’s seventh annual Technology Encouraging College Hopes (TECH) scholarship program.

“It’s awesome,” parent Michelle Gomez said after her third-grade daughter, Andrea, scored a shiny new HP laptop for an essay about her college dreams. “What a great way to motivate students.”

Friday’s ceremony was just the beginning of this year’s laptop extravaganza. Later this month, 12 more computers will be presented to Riverside students by Dr. Valenzuela, a longtime Inland physician and education advocate who has worked doggedly over the years to inspire local students to pursue college.

“Riverside has an abundance of smart, talented kids – and I feel blessed to encourage their college hopes and plans through this program,” Valenzuela said.

In this year’s competition, more than 300 students from three Riverside elementary schools wrote essays or submitted artwork describing how college could help them achieve their dreams. One student from each grade at each school was then selected by Dr. Valenzuela as a laptop winner.

Beatty’s top entries included an aspiring astronaut, doctor, physical therapist and cop. The most elaborate essay came from sixth-grader Ingrid Aguilar, who detailed her plans to cure cancer and diabetes – and build an amusement park with realistic simulations of swimming with mermaids, traveling in time, flying and other feats.

At the end of Friday’s ceremony, Principal Jacqueline Hall dabbed her eyes with tissue, clearly caught up in the emotion of the event.

“At Beatty Elementary, which is an AVID school, we are dedicated to increasing college and career readiness in our students,” Hall said. “Dr. Valenzuela reinforces that message by helping students understand the value of education and perseverance.”

Valenzuela will award the remaining 12 laptops to students at Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools during assemblies later this month. That adds up to nearly 150 laptops awarded to Riverside students since he launched the program in 2008. All told, about 3,000 children have participated in the competitions.

Known as “Dr. V” to friends and patients, Valenzuela created the TECH Scholarship Program after reading a 2005 report that showed fewer than a third of Inland Empire ninth-graders would attend college within four years. Vital technology skills also lagged for students who didn’t have a computer at home.

“The seeds of greatness lie within every child,” Valenzuela said. “With the TECH scholarship program, I hope to inspire students to achieve their potential through education and hard work.”

A longtime advocate for education, Valenzuela also created the Colton Dream Project in 2007 to motivate at-risk youth at Colton High School. The program provides low-income, academically challenged students with financial support, tutoring and mentoring to put them on the path to graduation and college.

The Dream Project boasts a 100% graduation rate among the 56 students who have been in the program. A control group of similar students experienced a 76% graduation rate.

As the son of working class parents in Chile, Valenzuela learned firsthand about the role of determination in overcoming adversity to secure his dreams. He battled severe economic obstacles to achieve a successful medical career. He completed high school by age 15 and graduated from medical school by 22. Today, Dr. Valenzuela is an esteemed member of the Inland region’s medical community.