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Current Scholarship Winners


The Roberto Gracia Memorial Scholarship is given to CLYLP alumni in honor of one of CLYLP’s most dedicated volunteers. Winners can be Freshman/Transfer students, under graduates or graduate students. The number of awards varies by year.

Noel.JPGGraduate Student Winner:
Noel Mendoza
Loyola Marymount University
Masters in Urban Education, Policy and Administration
CLYLP Sacramento Leadership Conference 2007

“CLYLP opened my eyes to new horizons and made evident the long history of struggle for civil liberties…I began to realize my potential and the role I can play in bringing about positive social change in my community.”

Noel Mendoza attended the CLYLP Sacramento Leadership Conference in 2007 while a junior at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles. The following year he was selected by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation as a Hispanic Heritage Award winner for Youth Leadership. He went on to attend Georgetown University where he earned his B.S. in Culture and Politics and a Minor in Foreign Service in 2012. While at Georgetown, he helped boost the Latino community on campus by serving as President of La Unidad Latina - Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, and La Casita, a campus club he founded to provide housing, community and opportunity and to give a stronger presence and voice to the Latino community. Noel was selected in 2009 to participate in the prestigious Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Congressional Internship program, where he interned for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s office in Washington D.C. After graduating he accepted an offer from Teach for America to return home to his community and serve students at Animo Watts College Preparatory Academy. Working with over 130 students, he uses his heritage and proficiency in Spanish to demonstrate a passion for learning which inspires his students, all the while earning his Masters in Urban Education, Policy and Administration from Loyola Marymount University. Noel plans to use the experiences gained from the classroom to enter the policy side of education and help improve the educational system overall.

First Year Undergraduate Winner:Vanessa.png
Vanessa Lopez
University of California, Los Angeles
Major: Undeclared
CLYLP Los Angeles Institute, 2011

“CLYLP has shown me that I have the power to make a difference, not only in my future, but in that of others as well. The experience changed my perspective on education as well as my leadership abilities, and has really shaped the individual that I am today.”

Vanessa Lopez graduated from Highlands High School in Palmdale this spring and will begin her freshman year at UCLA in the fall. Vanessa boasts an impressive academic and athletic record, having earned her International Baccalaureate diploma, and earning a place in the 2009 and 2012 National Junior Olympic track team. As a scholar-athlete, she has earned multiple accolades from the California State Senate, including awards for Scholastic Excellence, Outstanding Citizenship, and the Future Leaders Award. This year she was recognized by the United States Congress for being one of Antelope Valley’s Future Leaders. During her free time, Vanessa further demonstrates her fortitude as a leader and shows her commitment to helping others. She has participated in or led several charitable events such as food drives and charity runs. She will be the first in her family to attend a university and plans to become a teacher to help inspire other students to reach their full potential. Vanessa participated in the CLYLP Los Angeles Institute in 2011.


Karen_Villegas.JPGContinuing Undergraduate Winner
Karen Villegas
University of California, Los Angeles
Major: Political Science, Minor: Education
CLYLP Sacramento Leadership Conference 2011

“I genuinely appreciate CLYLP for the role it has played in helping me become an accomplished individual with a desire to give back. CLYLP gave me the clarity to pursue a career path that encompasses my personal fight to achieve racial equity in education and make schooling inclusive of all cultures.”

Karen is beginning her second year at UCLA pursuing a degree in Political Science and minoring in Education. Her academic success in high school earned her scholarships from Dell and KFC, and the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship that will support her scholastic endeavors from bachelors through a doctoral degree. She has demonstrated a commitment to giving back and has worked in her community by doing local outreach to high schools as both a Gates and Bunche Ambassador with the mission of aiding disadvantaged youth into the application process for universities and scholarships. Karen is currently an honors student at UCLA with membership in the Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Societies where she manages the scholarship process. Karen is from Hemet, California and is the first in her family to work towards a higher education. She hopes to earn her PhD and work to enact policies to find ways to improve the schooling system for students of color. Karen is an alumnus of the 2011 CLYLP Sacramento Leadership Conference, and is currently a CLYLP Comcast Fellow interning in Assmebly Member Bill Quirk’s Capitol office. She is also a CLYLP Alumni Intern.


Mr. Sal Castro was a fervent education activist whose mission was to awaken the leadership spirit of every youth he encountered. His role in the Chicano student walkouts of 1968 highlighted the inequalities and discrimination in the Los Angeles educational system. After retiring from a 43-year career in teaching, he continued to fight for students' rights to receive a quality education and learn their history, and inspired students to take the reins of their education. Sal was a devoted CLYLP volunteer, he was one of CLYLP's longest running speakers at the Sacramento Leadership Conference (SLC), having presented at every SLC since the project started in 1982. To honor his memory, CLYLP will give one scholarship to a CLYLP alumnus pursuing a career in education.


Cecilia_Aguilar.jpgCecilia Aguilar
University of California, Santa Cruz
First Year Student, Undeclared Major
Los Angeles Institute, 2011

Cecilia is an alumnus of the 2011 CLYLP Los Angeles Institute and returned as a Peer Counselor in 2012. Next fall, she begins her journey in higher education at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she hopes to pave the path for others as the first member of her family attend college. During her time at the Alliance Media Arts and Entertainment Design High School in Los Angeles she demonstrated her capacity as a future leader through her many activities on campus.  She demonstrated a strong appreciation for her academic opportunities by taking challenging AP and Honors courses and has achieved high academic marks and several awards including Honor Roll and Certificates of Recognition. Cecilia led several organizations on campus and has demonstrated a commitment to helping others.  She worked to help her peers reach their own potential by creating the Summer Enrichment Club where she could mentor and guide underclassmen. She also headed the Prom Committee, served as captain of her cheer team, a member of College Bound Prep, and fundraised to participate in a trip to Washington D.C. All the while she was able to meet the responsibilities of caring for her family. After experiencing firsthand the effects of the growing education achievement gap, Cecilia planes on studying education at UC Santa Cruz with the long term goal of advocating for education reform and better conditions for underserved schools and communities.

Check out past recipients here