LOS ANGELES, CA-Jhoanna Carrera grew up in Huntington Park, one of the most impoverished and infamously violent areas in the nation. The poised teenager is a recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, and started her freshman at UC Berkeley today. Her story is one of focus, discipline, civic engagement, and involvement with an after-school program that gave her the direction to succeed in a community that so many get lost within.
“My entire philosophy during high school was to not sit on the couch and watch TV,” says Jhoanna. A confident young woman, her commitment to that statement throughout her high school career led Jhoanna on a path to collegiate success.
“My mom worked until 9:00 p.m. each evening and my dad worked till midnight,” she continues. “I thought it would be a better decision to be productive, rather than sit at home alone.”
Jhoanna became aware of an after-school program at her high school, and stayed active for all four years. Reflecting on its programs, she states that she is “grateful for the opportunities the organization gave [her].”
Founded in 2002 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with noteworthy support from Program Ambassador Kobe Bryant, After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA) is a leading after-school program provider whose programs educate, enlighten and inspire thousands of students each day through after-school activities centered around academic support; health, fitness and nutrition; the visual and performing arts; and youth leadership and community service learning.
The organization brings innovative, cutting-edge academic and enrichment programs to K-12 students that contribute to reducing drug use, crime and violence; while increasing their safety during the after school hours. ASAS-LA serves over 8,000 students daily across 44 schools located in deserving areas throughout LA County.
“When I first entered high school, I was so shy…I was afraid to speak up, to raise my hand in class,” says Jhoanna. “After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles helped me to have confidence and composure.”
Jhoanna specifically favored ASAS-LA academic initiatives, focusing on her education with study time and college-prep programs. The organization’s “We Are Ready” programs engages students with curriculum on what is expected as a university applicant; students receive information and direction about scholarships and the college admittance process, which begins in high school.
Jhoanna also enjoyed ASAS-LA community service learning initiatives, where she was devoutly involved in civic affair activities, such as volunteering for needy families, helping the homeless, collecting items and canned goods for the Salvation Army. While in high school, she completed over 500 community service hours.
She also enjoyed planning dances at her school, and helping her younger peers with their homework and studies.
“I grew up in a really hard area,” states a reflective Jhoanna. “On my walk home from school, I always had to be careful– cautious of gangs, violence. There were drug dealers on the street corners, constant noise with sirens, cops, extreme commotion. After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles gave me other options to participate in something other than what was going on around me in my community each day.”
Excited about the future, Jhoanna looks forward to her life at UC Berkeley, one of the most respected higher education institutions in the nation. As a recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Jhoanna’s tuitions expenses are covered.
“I am so grateful,” she says “grateful for my health, all these wonderful opportunities in life and also my present and future education.”
She is looking forward to the atmosphere at Berkeley, “full of social movements, culture, diversity, the arts.”
Jhoanna plans to major in biology and eventually have a career in the medical field, as a doctor who helps the disadvantaged Hispanic community. Ever community service minded, she will “surely be involved in civic activities at Berkeley” and plans to volunteer at hospitals, elementary schools and also be involved in Berkeley’s student government.
“I am absolutely committed to my community,” says Jhoanna. “While at Berkley, I’d also like to motivate Hispanic teens to pursue higher education.”
For more information on After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles, please visit: www.la-allstars.org.
Story by Shannon Mayock, After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles