Former ASAS-LA student accepts full scholarship to Harvard
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pictured with family members
In June 2008, Juan graduated from East LA’s Theodore Roosevelt High School and in September he began his college journey at the prestigious Harvard University on full-scholarship. Juan, then 18, held down a 4.5 GPA throughout high school while taking AP courses in calculus, English, statistics, physics, history and government; spent his first seven years in South Los Angeles.
“It was certainly a tough transition for me,” says Juan, who discusses the notoriously dangerous region of Los Angeles, an area with an extensive history of gang violence.
“In communities where there is a lot of violence, there seems no way to go.”
Though there eventually proved to be a route for Juan, who focused on his school work-- mathematics in particular, and also devoted himself to learning the English language.
“I was an ESL (English as second Language) student until the 6th grade,” recalls Juan.
It was during this time that Juan also became extensively involved in an after-school program that his school offered.
“I began attending the After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles programs as a 6th grader at Edison Middle School when I was 10 years old,” explains Juan. “It really gave me a foundation. I think that the middle school years are the most detrimental, transitionally. You need something to do.”
“After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles got gang pressure off of us, and gave [us] an alternative,” says Juan, who nostalgically recalls his days involved with the organization, where he received help with his homework through program leaders; speaks about the admiration of his All-Star soccer coach; recalls “athlete of the year” competitions that the program offered; community service endeavors; dance teams and other activities that he so enjoyed.
“I started out in the program extremely quiet, but then I started opening up; it gave me confidence,” explains Juan. “Many of my friends went the other direction, went into gangs, died and got shot. It was just hard to stay away if you lived in that community,” he continues.
Juan, who was in the program throughout the 6th, 7th and 8th grades, moved the Boyle Heights area when his high school years approached.
“By the time I entered high school, I was full-go…I was off and running!” Juan exclaims.
He attributes much of that enthusiasm and confidence to the exposure he received, and fundamental life skills that were cultivated while an All-Star.
“It was a rich experience for every single one of [us]; we got what we needed….for some it was an escape.”
Though it admittedly took Juan a year to embrace his new situation in high school without the after-school program, he thrived at Theodore Roosevelt High School, where he ran track and was actively involved in an array of academic clubs.
Juan received straight A’s all throughout his high school career.
He is currently enjoying college life in Boston. In addition to Harvard, Juan was also admitted into a total of 5 Ivy League schools, including Cornell and Dartmouth.
“The future looks extremely bright,” Juan smiles. “For me, it just keeps getting better.”