Month: February 2017

Welcome back to Alumni in Action! This week, we talked to Gisell Rodriguez, who graduated from our program in June of 2016. Gisell was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when she was only two years old. Her high grades and deep commitment to community service got her accepted into many colleges, but Providence College saw something more and offered the four-year, full-ride St. Juan Macias Scholarship. She has just started her second semester of college, read below to find out how she’s doing!



Gisell Rodriguez


LVS Class:



High School:

Lynn Classical High School



Providence College


Have you declared a major?

No, I’m undecided. I initially thought I wanted to major in Engineering, but after taking a few classes, I changed my mind. I’m more interested in the Humanities now, specifically Sociology, but still haven’t officially declared.


What classes are you taking?

Public and Community Service, Women’s Studies, Sociology, Development of Western Civilization, and Common Disorders of Children.


What are some ways in which you’ve gotten involved on campus?

I’ve joined PIRC (Providence Immigrant Rights Coalition); in today’s political climate, I think it’s important to stand up for those who need our help. Being an immigrant myself, PIRC is a safe space for me in which I also learn ways to better educate others about immigration issues.


How have you dealt with living away from home?

The transition from home to dorm life has been relatively easy for me since I have been away from home before, although not for prolonged periods of time. I have a lot more freedom than I did back home, which is helping me become more independent.


What do you hope to get out of your college experience?

I hope to gain a life-changing experience that will help me grow as a person. I also hope to continue to meet many more great people.


What do you remember the most about coming to LVS every week?

I remember always looking forward to learning something new and seeing my friends. In addition to college prep, I learned a lot about self-care, time management, and money management. I definitely have a better understanding about finances, not just specific to college, but to everyday life.



A junior at Lynn English High School, Olga Hernandez was a second-year addition to LVS, but managed to fit right in with the already tight-knit group of 19 other students. Some of the colleges she’s looking forward to applying to are Harvard, Tufts, Emmanuel, Boston College, and Northeastern! We have no doubt that Olga will achieve her goals – her upbeat attitude and dedicated work ethic are just some of her outstanding qualities.


We caught up with her and asked her a couple questions, take a look below!


What field/career do you hope to pursue?

I want to become an optometrist.



What song would you perform on American Idol?

“If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys



Where do you volunteer in your spare time?

Every weekend, I help out at My Brother’s Table in downtown Lynn.


Who is your hero?

My sister [Heidy Hernandez, LVS ‘13] is my hero! She has worked so hard throughout her college career, always getting amazing grades. She will graduate almost debt-free and already has a job offer at Beverly Hospital. In May, she will have achieved her goal of becoming a registered nurse. She is my role model and I hope to be just like her.



What are your top two (because let’s be real, you can’t pick just one) Disney movies?

Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo



If  you could have a dinner party and invite three celebrities, who would they be?

Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cierra Ramirez



Why do you want to go to college?

I want to make my parents proud and also help those less fortunate than me. A college degree is a key step in my goal of becoming an optometrist and then going on to Doctors Without Borders. Going to college will allow me to obtain a career I love and live a happy life.


We’d like to thank everyone who volunteered with us this year for MLK Day of Service – we made almost 300 paracord bracelets!


Program Update


Hello! Hope you enjoyed our first month of blogging! In January, you learned more about Jose Perez (LVS ‘17), Melvin and Alba Roman (Inversant Saving Circle), and Anna Martinez (Barnard ‘19). We hope that through these posts, you get to know the faces of our program and learn more about them as people – they really do have exceptional stories!




Our 12th grade class has been accepted to 43 colleges and universities – that’s just early action schools! Regular decision admission acceptances come out sometime in late March and early April; can’t wait to find out where our seniors get offers from! We’ll keep you posted!


As the college application season dwindles, the scholarship season comes with full force. Our students have their eyes peeled for scholarships that are due soon – such as the Yawkey Scholars program and the Red Pine Scholarship.


Additionally, we have David Lopez from our Board of Directors coming in each week to teach our seniors about Financial Literacy in partnership with Santander Bank. Yesterday was their first class; they learned about banks, credit cards, and rates – it definitely got their interest!




This month, we started Kaplan ACT Prep! Two weeks ago, all our Juniors took the diagnostic exam and they averaged a score of 21 (the national average!) with some students scoring as high as 26 on their first try! ACT classes run each week for all our current juniors; we even had some spots available and invited students from other college-prep programs to join in!


Our juniors are working hard on their scholarship efforts; 16 of them just applied for the Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship last week. This was their first scholarship application EVER, requiring them to reach out to teachers and community leaders for recommendation and nomination letters, figure out how to get an official transcript from their high school, navigate through financial paperwork, and write an autobiographical essay.


We’d like to congratulate the eight juniors who received admission into the Noonan Scholars program! We’re so proud of you! Get ready for a summer of learning!




Our 10th graders are the most energetic part of our entire week! Ten of them applied to the Christian A. Herter Scholarship (just like our juniors did!) and the students that didn’t apply still had to submit autobiographical essays to sharpen their writing skills.


Some of the topics that our 30 sophomores are currently learning about include: learning styles, introduction to college applications, and navigating college websites. We like to test out their knowledge of the topics discussed with in-class Jeopardy-style review. They can get a little competitive!


Anna Martinez


LVS Class:



High School:

Lynn English High School


College Currently Attending:

Barnard College at Columbia University



Spanish and Latin American Cultures with a minor in Economics


How did you decide on a major?

My first year of college I took an Introduction to Economic Theory class and fell in love. It was a type of math being applied to people, which to some sounds crazy, but it was so interesting to me (and still is). I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it; I didn’t want to go into corporate America.


My second semester, I watched a Ted Talk that changed my life. It was an Afro-Cuban woman who talked about her journey of only buying from Black businesses for a year; she was called racist and had actual hate mail written to her. She talked about money that leaves Black communities but never goes back into these communities, which lead to high crime rates, low unemployment, high gang activity, etc. I was fascinated.


I was then introduced to this new concept of Economic Injustice on a micro-economic level. At the same time, Dominican Republic was trying to kick out all the Haitians and darker-skinned Dominicans out of the country, and in America, the light-skin versus dark-skin women was a hot topic (and still is). I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to relate all these new things I was experiencing and learning, go to a radical women’s college, and also receive an Ivy-League education; I was constantly being stunned by new information. Then it kind of just hit me one day: I wanted to focus on economic injustice in Latin American countries. I realized this while also realizing I want to become a lawyer in hopes of advocating for the underdogs.


Did you have any internships while in college?

Last summer, I was the Marketing and Communications Intern for The Alliance for Coney Island. For those who don’t know what Coney Island is, it is the second oldest amusement park and holds the first ever roller coaster. The history of the Island is fascinating. The Alliance handles all the free programming on the island – my job was to help with these events but also handle all the social media for the park. I also helped plan and execute the first ever Coney Island Busker Fest which was an amazing experience.


What do you plan to do after graduation?  

I’m a sophomore right now, but my plan is to take a gap year after graduation and travel. I hope to then go to Law School.


What do you remember the most from your time in La Vida Scholars?

The snacks! But seriously, I actually remember how close I got with the other scholars. Sometimes you just did not want to be there for two hours taking a practice SAT exam twice a week, but at least we had each other. We all knew we were going to get through it together.


What are some things you learned at La Vida Scholars that prepared you for college life, finances, and academics?

The college tours helped so much. I remember thinking, “Why am I up this early at a school I know I don’t want to go to?” I realized that by visiting those schools I learned exactly what I did and didn’t want in a college experience. I needed the city, but I wanted a small school campus feel. All those preferences came from those visits.


I remember Dave always having us visit the Multi-Cultural clubs/activities and offices on campus. He emphasized how important it was to have a support group on campus. I never understood that. I thought that I would just go to the best school that accepted me. It wasn’t until I got to school and I realized that I was literally the only person of color in some of my classes. It hit me that Dave was right; going to a predominantly white institution is already difficult, one needs to have a group of students of color you can vent, hang out, and study with.