DCP Alumni Spotlight: Julia Alvarez joins Adobe and paves the way for Latinas, minorities in STEM

Julia Alvarez, DCP alum class of 2012, recently began working at Adobe as a Cloud Services Software Developer on the Digital Imaging Team — one of the few Latinas in the company. Although Alvarez grew up in Silicon Valley, she admits, “I didn’t appreciate living in the tech world until I left it.” Alvarez had a solid math and science background during her four years at DCP and started the AP Biology Club because she had a passion for learning and was constantly discovering ways to learn outside the classroom. Despite her budding career in computer science, Alvarez admits the only experience she had with computers growing up was fixing the family’s broken computers similar to computer repair in Prescott, Arizona and what they deal with on a daily basis. Soon she might be doing it for a living as well!

Julia at DCP El Primero High School 2012 (left), Julia and her mother at her Graduation from Brown 2017 (right)

Alvarez’s first real introduction to technology occurred at Brown University during an unexpected encounter with a fellow student.

“I was carrying bags of groceries from the local store. A student offered to help me, with the caveat that I would attend an introduction to a computer science course. I immediately became interested in the course and signed up.”

Alvarez enrolled in the class but struggled through it. The course was too difficult for her as she had never coded before, and she began to doubt her ability to succeed in computer science and dropped the class.

When Alvarez returned home from winter break, still feeling defeated from her efforts at computer science, she was encouraged to participate in a local Hack-a-Thon. This opportunity encouraged people from any level of technological background to participate in computer programming. “I felt very welcome and supported. The experience made me want to take another course. For the first time, I felt as if I could succeed at technology, so I enrolled in a more basic computer class at Brown and then re-enrolled in the same class I had dropped. This time, I passed with success!”

Alvarez earned a paid internship in Silicon Valley during her summer break. The experience promoted a love for programming and Alvarez recognized the lucrative financial impact a career in technology could have on her future.

Julia’s first semester at Brown 2012 (left), Hack at Brown 2014 (right)

Alvarez graduated from Brown University in 2017, majoring in Independent Modern Culture and Media with an Emphasis in Computer Science. She is the first in her family to graduate from college. This summer, Alvarez hopes to teach computer science at Adobe through their Girls Who Code program.

“My dream and aspiration is to go back and teach computer science to students, especially girls. I want them to gain the self-confidence to apply for careers in STEM. My field lacks female representation, especially by minorities, and I want to help change that.”

Latinos currently make up only 7% of the STEM workforce. DCP is working to increase the number of students of color and women prepared to pursue STEM degrees and careers. To learn more about DCP’s STEM program visit dcp.org/stem.

DCP Alumni Spotlight: Armando Forges a Path For Himself and His Community Through Medicine

Growing up in a low-income San Jose neighborhood, DCP class of 2004 alum and first-generation college graduate, Armando Cervantes, didn’t realize he could achieve anything beyond a high school education.

His journey from a wayward teenager to a second-year medical student began when Armando’s mother enrolled him at DCP after seeing his grades steadily declining.

“I didn’t consider college until going to DCP. It’s hard to image a future you’ve never been exposed to. As far as I was concerned, graduating from high school was a victory because most of the people I hung out with had dropped out. Now, [at DCP], I had everyone telling me everyday I’m going to college. After a while, you start to believe it, too.”

Armando (center, white hat) poses with his classmates from the class of 2004. The first cohort of students to ever graduate from DCP.

After struggling through DCP both academically and socially, Armando was able to raise his grades enough to be accepted into San Jose State University.

He graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in advertising and accepted an internship at a prestigious advertising agency in Long Beach. Despite his success, Armando felt unfulfilled with his work. He returned to San Jose with a goal of finding a career that excited him and would allow him to give back to the community that raised him.

His interest in medicine came after his best friend invited him to enroll in an EMT course with him. He instantly fell in love with the intricacies of the human body and knew he wanted to work in the healthcare field, but didn’t know his role.

“There are many roles in medicine that would allow me to apply my knowledge of the human body and fulfill my desire to give back. I did not know I wanted to be a physician yet, but I knew I had found the field I wanted to be in.”

Armando poses with his family at his White Coat Ceremony at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Armando decided to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant (PA) and enrolled at San Jose City College to fulfill the prerequisite for PA school. During his studies, Armando met professors whose stories of childhood poverty, personal obstacles, and drive to pursue a higher education resonated with him. “Hearing their stories of success inspired mine.”

A major deciding point to pursue medical school came after talking with a classmate, from a similar background as his, who had dreamed of being a pediatrician since a little girl, but was beginning to have doubts. “I felt bothered that she would consider anything other than becoming a doctor. I was upset that here was another missed opportunity of having a community role model, someone who would work with the underserved, a minority representation in the medical field. I was upset because I felt as though I was losing my doctor. At that moment I recognized the value of becoming a physician.”

Armando will graduate from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2020, sixteen years after graduating DCP.

He will finish up several years of residency before returning to the Bay Area to become the first doctor from his community. Currently, only 5% of physicians in the state of California are Latino.

Check out this video where Armando captured “a second a day” of his first year in Medical School.

DCP Alumni Spotlight: Sandra’s path from immigrant to immigration lawyer

This post is part of our Alumni Spotlight Series, where we share the stories of DCP alumni who are accomplishing amazing things. Check out the previous post here.

As a first-generation immigrant, the path from picking fruit alongside her parents to graduating from UC Berkeley wasn’t an easy one, but for DCP Class of 2010 alum Sandra Cruz it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Sandra came to the United States from Mexico with her family at the age of seven, and her parents had always emphasized the value of education and the importance of being a role model, especially for her younger sister. Her parents worked in the fields in Gilroy picking cherries and apricots, and Sandra worked alongside them during the summer months through her senior year of college. Growing up, she remembers them telling her she needed an education if she wanted to make a better living for herself and use her voice to help others.

 

Sandra’s drive and determination led her to UC Berkeley where she graduated in 2014, fulfilling her and her family’s dreams for her future.

 

“Being discriminated against as an immigrant and undocumented until age 15…seeing the discrimination based on not having a piece of paper is very dehumanizing and not right,” she says. “It’s human rights, people not having access to x, y, and z just because of lack in status. Growing up as an immigrant in this country motivates me to achieve that [career] dream.”

Since earning her UC Berkeley degree in 2014, Sandra has used her knowledge and skill set to work toward her goal of giving back to immigrants and the communities that helped shape her. After graduation, she worked at DCP, where her mission was to help parents of first-generation students by educating and informing them about college access and resource programs. She also worked at Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), where she traveled across counties empowering immigrants with information about their rights; she even co-founded an immigrant youth program.

 

Sandra’s own experience as a first-generation immigrant, as well as that of her family, have fueled her ambition to be an immigration lawyer. Here, she speaks about immigration rights after Donald Trump’s election.

 

Sandra’s meaningful roles working within these communities have propelled her toward her next goal: becoming an immigration lawyer. She has been interested in the field of law for as long as she can remember, seeing it as the best way for her to advocate for people in the court system.

Now, as Sandra prepares to apply to law school, she is back home working for the City of Gilroy, running a community center in the part of town where she grew up.

“Each position I’ve had [since graduating from college] has always been to give back, to empower, and to drive change in communities, especially for first-generation immigrants,” she shares. “[Now, working in Gilroy] brings me back full circle and reminds me what my goal is in life. It also empowers other people in my community to want to do the same.”

 

Today, Sandra considers DCP staff some of her biggest supporters. Her sister has also followed in her footsteps and now attends DCP El Primero High School.

DCP Students Unveil Powerful Murals

DCP middle school students unveil murals created to reflect their dreams against a backdrop of political, economic, and social challenges.  

Over the last 1.5 years, dozens of DCP El Camino Middle School students poured their hearts, their love, their anxieties and their skills into creating 3 sets of murals that now adorn their campus. Under the mentorship of DCP resident artist Carlos Rodriguez, 6th-8th grade students were engaged from start to finish. These students, ranging from blooming artists to self-conscious skeptics, designed the murals and did everything from covering the wood, spackling and sanding down the boards, and painting them by hand.

These murals represent a middle school coming of age story, with each grade level mural holding its own significance and beauty. During the unveiling, Carlos reflected on the stories told in each mural:

The 6th grade mural is “full of love and energy and creativity, they have not yet stopped believing in the wonder that is magic, they haven’t stopped believing in who they are”. Their art reflects that freedom of spirit.

The 8th grade mural representing grief, power and protest

The 7th grade mural illustrates how students are “starting to grow up and wake up and think about what they want do in the future, how the world has treated them, and what they feel”. And in the midst of that, how they have found love and support and nurturing at DCP.

The 8th grade mural captures an awakening to the the world. There is a lot of grief symbolism over loved ones lost and fractured relationships with parents. As they begin the journey into adulthood, Carlos reflected “They deserve so much more hope and to believe in themselves. They deserve to see the world as a non-threatening place”.

Mural artist Carlos Rodriguez and a group of the young artists spoke about the process of completing the murals and the inspiration behind them.

One of the most profound elements across the murals is a reclaiming of the world around them. Students infused humanity into images of technology and social media, and countered socio-political attacks against their community into images of empowerment and protest; celebrating their culture, their diversity, their dreams and their academic ambitions.

Faith Lujan, now a 9th grader who worked on the mural as an 8th grader, described the art by saying, “the protestors show that we need to stand for our rights, that we all have a voice, and that we need to use it. The drop of water is for the purity of the kids, and the wind is to blow away the extra flames that burn our dreams away.”

Many of the student artists acknowledged the power of Carlos’ mentorship, referring to him as a father figure.

The young artists beamed as they shared about their experiences with the mural project, with a combination of giddy delight, pride and gratitude for their mentor. There is a shared sense of awe, that even the smallest contribution is now a testament of the times for generations of students.

These murals represent what makes our community so unique. We create safe spaces and opportunities for students to explore, take risks and engage the deepest parts of themselves as students and individuals. Our relationship with students begins in their pre-teen years and continues into adulthood. We are more than a school, we are a family.

DCP Alumni Spotlight: Mauricio Rivera’s Journey to Space

This post is the first in our Alumni Spotlight Series, where we share the stories of DCP alumni who are accomplishing amazing things.

At DCP, students are encouraged from a young age to dream big and reach for the stars. For Mauricio Rivera—a DCP Class of 2011 alum and first-generation college graduate who is currently interning at Boreal Space—this lesson is now a reality.

Mauricio’s passion for computer engineering was sparked during his senior year in high school when he joined DCP’s Robotics club, run by two long-time supporters of our organization. The Robotics club instilled such a deep curiosity in Mauricio that he decided to pursue a degree in computer engineering after graduating in 2011.

Mauricio was a recipient of the DCP Scholarship, which helped fund his college education. Now, he’s inspired to give back to the community that helped him succeed through school and beyond.

“DCP has given me so much. I would have not gone through college if it weren’t for the help that DCP provided me. That is why, in a near future, I want to fund a DCP scholarship that will hopefully help a deserving student focus on academics and not tuition costs.”

Mauricio at his graduation from San Jose State University in 2017.

Though his chosen major was a challenging course of study, Mauricio persevered and in 2017, he graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in computer engineering.

Graduating from college was a life goal that I had for myself since middle school. [I focused] on the finish line and what it would mean to my family, especially my younger brother and younger cousins. I believe first-gen students have the privilege of being the catalyst of change for future generations in their family. My family was very proud because they came to the U.S with nothing, and they’re seeing their hard work pay off.”

With his degree under his belt, Mauricio is now interning as a software engineer at Boreal Space, where his responsibilities include working on software & debugging code. What excites him the most about his job are the opportunities he gets to learn from Silicon Valley veterans.

Mauricio (far left) and some of his team at Boreal Space along with Raymix, a musician and space enthusiast from Mexico who is one of the sponsors of their next launch.

“[At Boreal Space] I have a unique opportunity to be sitting in meetings with potential investors and customers that are twice my age and have way more experience than I do. It’s really exciting to be working on a [project] that will be going to space soon.”

As the end of the year approaches, Mauricio and his team are busy preparing for their upcoming launch. DCP is sponsoring this next mission, a suborbital launch of a CubeSat (or mini satellite) that is also hosting experiments from Stanford, Singapore, and Japan. You can learn more about this mission on Boreal Space’s blog.

A mock-up of the CubeSat.

Synopsys Takes Our New Campus “Across the Finish Line”!

On Saturday, September 23, Synopsys Inc. brought together a group of 524 volunteers to take our new campus “across the finish line” as part of their annual Global Volunteer Day.

 

This awesome group of change-makers chose to spend their Saturday taking part in Synopsys Global Volunteer Day and making a difference in their community.

 

Each September, the technology company takes on a “high impact, done-in-a-day” service project, bringing together hundreds of volunteers to help pull off major transformations. This year, they selected DCP for their Global Volunteer Day, and Synopsys employees and families worked alongside our students, parents, and alumni to complete 5 important enhancement projects on our new campus:

 

 

By day’s end, not only were these projects completed, but our campus was also decked out with colorful walls, beautiful planted trees, picnic tables and more, all thanks to the hard work of our volunteers. When our 1,100 students returned to school on Monday, they were blown away by the extraordinary enhancements and filled with gratitude for the work done during this Synopsys-led event.

We appreciate and thank the hundreds of you who joined us on Global Volunteer Day; you have forever left your mark on our school! We are also grateful to Synopsys for their generosity, kindness and for bringing our communities together.

Below, check out photos from this incredible day, taken by DCP art teacher Michelle Longosz and students in her photography class:

Volunteers started off the morning discussing logistics and safety procedures for the day ahead with City Year Corps Members.

 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo gave an inspiring talk to the crowd of volunteers.

 

Volunteers from DCP, Synopsys, City Year, and the community worked together to complete the enhancement projects, including a maker space.

 

Accent walls throughout our campus were painted bright colors including orange, purple and yellow.

Students, Alumni & Community Celebrate Grand Opening of New DCP Campus

On Friday, August 25, DCP celebrated the grand opening of our new campus in front of an enormous crowd made up of students, families, alumni, donors, and community supporters. Formerly the site of the historic Southern Lumber building, the space has been transformed to include classrooms and learning areas that will be used by our school’s 1,100 students.

Grand opening attendees gathered at the front of our new permanent campus, the exterior of which was formerly a dark brown color and has now been painted in DCP orange and purple.

To kick off the event, speakers including DCP co-founder and Executive Director Jennifer Andaluz, U.S Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, addressed the crowd, emphasizing how special the community is and thanking particular individuals and organizations for helping to bring our vision to life. After an exciting 10-second count down, the ribbon was officially cut and the audience broke into applause.

John A. Sobrato of the Sobrato Family Foundation, San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, and U.S. Rep Zoe Lofgren were just a few of the individuals who took part in the official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The opening of this new campus is an even more remarkable achievement for our organization because of our humble beginnings. DCP became the first charter high school in Santa Clara County in 2000, with 100 students in makeshift classrooms across two churches and the YWCA in downtown San Jose. Over the course of our 17-year history, DCP has had to move between five campuses, but in 2015 our students, parents, alumni, staff and the community began to advocate for a permanent home. After a year-long battle with the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), the district acquired the former Southern Lumber property and entered into a 50-year lease with DCP.

DCP’s students, alumni, staff, advocates and supporters at the grand opening of our permanent campus.

In the week leading up to the grand opening, we were thrilled to invite our alumni to a reunion and special preview of the new campus. The reunion was an excellent opportunity for us to reconnect with DCP alumni old and new, and to reveal the Alumni College Mural made up of their college graduation pictures spanning the wall of our new campus’s front entrance.

We had a blast showing our alumni what their legacy has helped create!

We want to thank and honor the students, families and community members who have served as catalysts for change throughout our city and helped us make this incredible transformation possible. This campus will serve our community for generations, and together, we will continue this movement that is transforming lives, families and neighborhoods.

DCP Awarded 2017 National “School to Watch” Distinction

At DCP, we’ve made it our mission to change the lives of first-generation students by preparing them for success through college and beyond and creating a community that supports and serves their needs. That is why it is with great pride that we announce that DCP Alum Rock Middle School (DCP ARMS) has been designated a “School to Watch™” (STW™) Model Middle School by the California League of Schools, California Department of Education, and the California Middle Grades Alliance.

School to Watch

DCP ARMS was recognized as a “School to Watch” at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon in Sacramento on Feb 23, 2017.

DCP ARMS is the first independent charter school in the state to receive this prestigious distinction and the first middle school in San Jose to do so. Our school joins 10 other high-performing middle schools across the state also selected this year for their demonstration of “academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity.”

“These are fantastic schools that do such a terrific job of helping students succeed with academics and succeed as they face all the other unique challenges of being in middle school,” said State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson in a press release. “It’s a significant time in a student’s life, and they need special teachers, staff, and administration to help them prepare for success in 21st century careers and college. These schools do all of that and more.”

Now as a STW™ model middle school, DCP ARMS will host visitors from California and around the world who are interested in learning practices that can help close the achievement gap in their own schools.

“Schools to Watch” National Designation at Washington D.C. Conference

DCP ARMS was honored again most recently at the 2017 National “Schools to Watch” Annual Conference, held in Washington D.C. from June 21 – June 24. There, our staff members joined over 80 other STW™ middle schools from across the nation in a discussion of best practices, presentations (two of which were led by DCP ARMS staff!), and an awards dinner.

The DCP ARMS team were all smiles at the 2017 National “Schools to Watch” Annual Conference awards dinner.

While in D.C., DCP ARMS staff also stopped by Capitol Hill to meet and speak with Representative Zoe Lofgren. During the visit, they talked with the Congresswoman about education policies impacting middle school and college success, and even about DCP ARMS’ own national designation.

DCP ARMS staff visiting Representative Zoe Lofgren on the hill.

We would like to thank the DCP ARMS staff members who work incredibly hard day-in and day-out to create an environment in which our students can thrive! Because of you, this accomplishment is possible.

DCP ARHS’s Founding Class Graduates with 100% College Participation Rate!

It is with great pride that we announce that on Thursday, June 8, DCP Alum Rock High School (DCP ARHS) proudly celebrated its first graduating class of 2017. Two-thirds of our graduates were the first to sign the college commitment pledge seven years ago as the founding class of DCP Alum Rock Middle School. Now, every single graduating student will be attending college in the Fall at prestigious schools including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and San Jose State University.

We proudly present to you…DCP ARHS’s first graduating class of 2017!

Many of the members of DCP ARHS’s Class of 2017 will be the first in their families to graduate from high school, let alone attend college. Every one of these graduates has a post-secondary plan and has received from us the academic, emotional, and financial guidance they need to make their transition to their two- or four-year universities a reality. As these students move on to their chosen colleges, DCP will continue to provide coaching and scholarship support.

Students’ families, DCP staff, and even Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco were in attendance!

The success of first-generation students is why we at DCP do the work that we do, and for our organization, this graduation marks the beginning of the journey to college that we have been eagerly waiting to take with our founding class. It is also the moment our graduates join our distinguished community of DCP Alumni who are working to positively contribute to society and impact the world through their courage and leadership.

Many students chose to get creative with their graduation caps!

Congratulations to DCP ARHS’s first graduating class and to the families, mentors, and staff who guided them to this achievement. As President Barack Obama said in an inspiring quote that graced the cover of our graduation ceremony programs:

“And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.”

Class of 2017: the world is yours for the taking, but we hope you’ll always think of DCP as “home”. Once a Lobo, always a Lobo!

DCP Students See ‘Hamilton’ in San Francisco!

On Wednesday, May 3rd, juniors from DCP El Primero High School (DCP EPHS) had the privilege of seeing a matinee showing of Hamilton: An American Musical, at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre. Not only did the students enjoy the Tony-award winning musical about the life and times of founding father Alexander Hamilton, they were also able to speak with cast members during a Q&A before the show! Making the experience even more meaningful, however, is how exactly it came to be.

DCP EPHS juniors and special guests outside of the Orpheum Theatre waiting to see Hamilton!

Tickets to the show were generously secured for our juniors by Michelena (pictured above) and Andres Valdespino in honor of their son and former DCP ARMS teacher, Dan Valdespino. Dan—a beloved Social Studies and Science teacher who valued meaningful relationships with his students—passed away over two years ago from heart failure. His parents acquired the tickets as a way to memorialize Dan and his passion for history while also giving back to an organization that mirrored his values.

For the last two years, DCP ARMS has celebrated Dan’s life on “Dan’s Day,” paying tribute to his energy and commitment to improving students’ lives through education. Students during the most recent “Dan’s Day” celebration received dog tags that read: “Be the change. Pay it forward.”

Qualifying for these special Hamilton tickets was no easy feat, as schools and students had to meet numerous requirements. Between junior trip, spring break, CAASPP testing, and ACT/SAT prep, our juniors participated in a 5-day unit provided by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a group helping to facilitate student viewings of Hamilton. By the end of the five days, students produced an original piece of work—either a monologue, scene, or poem—related to the Founding Era.

DCP students were joined at the Hamilton showing by Michelena Valdespino and Dan’s younger brother, Matt.

At DCP, we believe there is no education without art, and we are grateful to Michelena and Andres Valdespino for providing for our students this unique experience to bring history to life while celebrating their son Dan. A DCP college scholarship has been funded by Dan’s parents, family, and friends in his name. Click here to learn more, or donate now by clicking the button below: