Past Recipients

Joanna del Carmen Beltrán GirónJoanna del Carmen Beltrán Girón: 2014 George Geng-On Lee Minority in Leadership Recipient

In the six years since arriving in the bay area from El Salvador, Joanna del Carmen Beltrán Girón graduated from Mission High School and has spent two years at the University of California Santa Cruz working on a double major in Sociology and Psychology. Joanna hopes to finish her education with a PhD and use her knowledge to serve native and migrant Salvadorans and provide socio-psychological treatment to at-risk youth and gang members in Central America who are struggling to fulfill their basic needs such as food, education, healthcare, and security.

Thoa HoangThoa Hoang: 2014 George Geng-On Lee Minority in Leadership Recipient

Thoa Hoang is a first generation college student pursuing a dual degree in Political Economy and Social Welfare with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. In 2013 she was president of the Educational Opportunity Programs Student Association (EOPSA) a student run group offering leadership and a community for low-income, first generation students. As the program coordinator for the Southeast Asian Student Coalition (SASC) 2013 Summer Institute, Thoa organized a 5-day conference empowering high-schoolers through cultural and academic workshops and plans to pursue a graduate degree in public policy and international affair.

AlyssaAlyssa Lerner: 2013 George Geng-On Lee Minority in Leadership Recipient

Alyssa Lerner is a rising fourth year student at the University of California, Berkeley. While working towards a PhD in either Ethnic Studies or Dance and Performance Studies, she is also the Artistic Director of THRIVE Dance Company where she has choreographed a 30-dancer showcase and organized free and open community dance workshops. As a founding member of the Labor Justice Project at Cal, her experiences protecting worker’s rights led to her receiving the Student/Young Leader Scholarship from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance along with an invitation to attend the national APALA convention. Read more

She has embraced community service and volunteers over 200 hours a year, having served as a intern in the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a tutor for Oakland 4th and 5th graders, and the Alternative Breaks program offered by Cal Corps Public Service Center.

gabrielaimageGabriela Manzo: 2013 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient

Gabriela Manzo is a single parent of a young son and a full-time undergraduate with a 3.7 GPA at the University of California, Irvine. Majoring in psychology and social behavior with minors in educational studies and civic and community engagement, Gabriela plans to apply to doctoral programs in California as a next step to becoming a licensed clinical psychologist. In addition to her academic endeavors, she volunteers as a mentor in two transfer preparation mentorship programs and as an outreach volunteer for a non-profit that provides counseling services to victims of crime. Read more

She also works as a professional non-paid research intern, and is an active member of two research teams and one research lab on campus. Capture the Dream, Inc. is proud to honor Gabriela’s educational performance and relentless determination as the recipient of the 2013 Capture the Dream Single Parent Scholarship.

Robin Rivera: 2012 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient

Robin Rivera is a first generation immigrant, college student and single mother. She has faced numerous challenges in her life, including experiencing trauma and abuse, and struggling with addiction. There was a time when Robin’s self-esteem was very low, and she felt incapable of accomplishing anything. Her learning disabilities added an extra level of difficulty to focusing on her education.  Read more

Becoming a mother motivated Robin to turn her life around. She wanted desperately to set a shining example for her young daughter, who now gives her the motivation to succeed. Robin reached out to all of the resources available on her college campus and from social services, looking for guidance. She found people to coach her and believe in her, which helped her to finally start believing in herself. Today, her outlook on life has changed dramatically from what it once was, and Robin now knows that she can accomplish absolutely anything by just continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

As a result, Robin has become an active member of the community, both on and off campus. She served as the secretary for AGS Honors Society, which is a California Community College Honor Society aimed toward awarding students for excellence, knowledge, and wisdom within their schools. Robin has also stood as the treasurer for Psi Beta where she first felt like she began to have a voice. One of her biggest passions includes advocating for low-income, student parents. Robin has worked to represent them at the Board of Governors meeting regarding community colleges, the Student Success Task Force recommendations meeting, and a budget cut hearing at the state capitol. Because she feels blessed to have received the support she needed to be successful, Robin feels a deep obligation to help others achieve similar success by showing them what worked for her, so that they can make smoother transitions to successful lives.

Recently, Robin graduated with highest honors from Las Positas Community College, and was admitted to UC Berkeley. There, she plans to study Psychology and Social Welfare. She was accepted out of 200 students to be a George Miller Scholar, conducting original academic research in hopes of making a difference in today’s human trafficking atrocity. Her future plans include getting her degree at Berkeley and moving on to grad school. Of course, she never forgets about what got her to where she is in the first place, because another of her primary goals is to continue setting the strong example of a capable and confident woman for her daughter. Judging by all the work Robin has done and all the things she plans to accomplish in the future, Robin and her daughter surely have a very solid future in store for them.

Tami Lucero: 2012 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient

Tami Lucero knew everything would change when she became a single parent. Being a single parent would change many of the priorities in her life. Tami would be the sole support and provider for her two kids, meaning she would have to work extremely hard to earn enough money to support them. And, her own education would have to come second to other commitments. Overall, she selflessly put her needs second so her kids could thrive. Read more

Throughout her life, Tami lacked the luxury of living in a household of her own. Moving from place to place, often not knowing the next move, made life extremely frustrating. But the motivation she has drawn from her children has always pushed her to strive for a better future for them and herself. She has made it her personal goal to attain the life they have hoped for, and her determined mindset has propelled her to continue her education while working numerous jobs. These jobs have included babysitting, numerous teaching positions, and being a Scout Mom. In each of these roles, Tami has demonstrated a special talent and incredible passion for working with children.

Though becoming a single parent seemed to have set her on an unknown track, Tami has always been highly focused and driven to pursue her education. She enrolled at Shasta Community College where she studied Early Childhood Education. And while her own education was a priority for her, the education of her two children was of even greater importance. Disappointed by an education system that could not meet the needs of her kids, Tami decided to home school them. She home-schooled her son until he completed high school, and is currently still homeschooling her high school age daughter.

Striking a balance between teaching, working, and staying on top of her studies, while making sure her family is safe and that bills are paid each month has been a stressful life. In recent years, Tami and her children have struggled with poverty and homelessness, but her ambition and determination set her apart from many others in her position who might have given up on their dreams. Currently, Tami works full time as a housekeeper, goes to school part time, and continues to home-school her daughter. In the near future she plans to transfer to CSU Chico to focus on Liberal Studies and Child Development. After that, Tami’s goal is to gain a Masters of Education in order to continue her love for teaching.

Maraea Master: 2012 George Geng On Lee – Minorities in Leadership Scholarship Recipient 

When life seems to hit rock bottom, it’s the strongest and most courageous people who get back on their feet and foster change to make things better. Maraea Master is undoubtedly one of those few, special people. In fact, she has gone above and beyond because she doesn’t simply try to make things better for just herself. Throughout her life she has worked extremely hard to provide for everyone around her. Read more

From a young age, Maraea’s life has been financially challenging. As a young, single mother, Maraea struggled with poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and incarceration. When she was on the verge of losing custody of her children, she learned that both she and her fifteen year old daughter were pregnant. These events were what finally motivated her to take the necessary steps to turn her life around.

Her new, improved life began when she joined a treatment program geared toward women and children. There she received the support, resources, and courage she needed to get her life moving again. Today she describes her life as “the business of change and the beauty of redemption,” and she has achieved nothing short of that.  She now stands proudly as a first generation college student. Maraea holds a strong 3.82 at City College of San Francisco with an Associate of Science Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She will be continuing her education at San Francisco State University School of Social Work. Maraea contributes to her campus by being a peer advisor at the Second Chance Program at City College where she holds weekly advising sessions, helps students find financial aid resources, and discusses common topics such as mental illness and homelessness. Her motivation to create opportunities for those students is fueled by her past hardships and life experiences.

Maraea will use use the funds she receives from Capture the Dream, Inc. to help her complete her education at San Francisco State University. Following that, she plans to attend graduate school, obtain a license in social work, and then continue her work with the under-served population. She will continue to set an example for others who are struggling to overcome similar obstacles, showing them, and her children, that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty.

Jeneane Wagner: 2011 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient Scholarship Recipient

Jeneane Wagner, recipient of the Capture the Dream Scholarship, is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. After spending two years in college, Jeneane made an unexpected yet adventurous decision to spend one year traveling and working abroad. Upon her return to the United States, she became pregnant and a single mother of a now 20 month old son. Read more

Despite the immense responsibility of motherhood and having to cope with learning disabilities, Jeneane decided to continue her academic pursuits at Mills College where she maintains a 3.77 GPA. The Capture the Dream, Inc. Scholarship will help support her continued success in college, ultimately providing a better future for Jeneane and her son.

Vi Tran: 2011 George Geng On Lee – Minorities inLeadership Scholarship Recipient

While many high school students identify their heroes as celebrities or football players, Vi admires her mother, whose perseverance as a first-generation immigrant and single parent continues to inspire her. Read more

Greatly valuing her family’s sacrifices in their immigration journey, Vi not only excels academically but also serves as a leader in student organizations despite her minority standing in a predominantly Caucasian high school. With perseverance and ambition, Vi became the Project Chair and eventually the President of Key Club, where she introduced minority charities such as the Mai Tam Am House of Hope for children suffering from HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. In the future, Vi Tran hopes to become a pediatrician dedicated to improving the health of underprivileged children while proudly representing her Vietnamese heritage.

Isis Castaneda: 2010 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient

Self-doubt and poor self esteem are often emotionally damaging, but they can be even more harmful when exhibited in a child, as was the case with Isis Castaneda. Read more

Isis immigrated to the United States from El Salvador with her family when she was 5 years old. She and her family settled in a Virginia community where they were the only Latinos in the area. When Isis started kindergarten, the only language she spoke was Spanish, which caused her to struggle in school and eventually be placed in classes with special needs children.

While her placement in the special needs class was done to help her to improve her understanding of English and therefore her schoolwork, Isis saw it as an assertion that she was not intelligent, and she carried this false belief with her throughout her school years. Even though Isis graduated high school, her misconceptions about her academic abilities, along with the challenges that came from attending many different schools both in and out of the US, inhibited any possibility that she would embrace her full educational potential.

After high school, at the encouragement and guidance of a friend, Isis enrolled in community college. It was at that point Isis began to realize her true potential. She established a support system and was able to begin working through her self doubt, but her grades fluctuated as she was still challenged by the negative beliefs from her past.

When her daughter began kindergarten, Isis wanted to make sure that her daughter’s educational experience would be much different from the one she endured. To meet this goal, Isis worked hard saving money, applying for scholarships and making personal sacrifices to get her daughter into private school. Now her daughter is a junior in high school and Isis couldn’t be prouder of how well she’s doing in school.

While witnessing her daughter’s educational experience firsthand, Isis became more aware of the stumbling blocks she still faced in her own life, including the starting and stopping of her college education. She is now working to overcome these issues and accomplish her dream of graduating from college.

For the last 13 years, Isis has worked with and been of service to families, particularly teenagers. Isis’ greatest passion is to support, teach and guide teenagers through the everyday challenges they face. Isis has worked in a wide variety of positions that demonstrate her commitment to helping others. She is currently the Program Director for The Academy of Healing Arts. In this position, she leads 10 groups a week with teens from diverse backgrounds. Isis has also written proposals, developed curriculum and has worked closely with many organizations, schools and co-workers toward the betterment of teens’ lives.

The amazing thing about Isis’ story is that she was able to achieve all that she has without a college degree. Through the Capture the Dream, Inc. Scholarship Fund, Isis will have the opportunity to fulfill her goal of going back to school and earning her Bachelor’s degree, completing her educational journey. The self-doubt that Isis experienced as a child has transformed into a self-exploration that has allowed her to realize her full potential and help not only her self-esteem, but others who can be inspired to be whatever they want to be.

Adrienne Tran: 2010 George Geng On Lee – Minorities in Leadership Scholarship Recipient

As a child, Adrienne Tran had been saving money to buy a food processor that her mother had always wanted. When she finally had enough money saved up, Adrienne went to her hiding place to get the money, only to find that it wasn’t there. As her tears started to fall, her father saw her, put his arms around her and whispered “I’ll pay it back, I promise.” Read more

This was becoming a common occurrence in her family – her father’s gambling problem had reared its ugly head once again, this time wiping out in a couple of days what had taken years for Adrienne to save up. It was during this time that she noticed her father’s gambling problem had become more intense. Adrienne remembered sitting in the car for hours outside the local casino while her father gambled inside; now, there were the phone calls to the house asking for her father, and the creditor letters that began to arrive at the house when the calls went unreturned.

Adrienne’s breaking point came when her father tried to sell the deed to their house to supplement his addiction. The threat of potential homelessness, along with the random scatterings of casino chips and napkins around the house bearing the casino’s name led Adrienne to feel that she had no control over a life that was now dominated by her father’s gambling addiction.

As a way to escape her real world problems and relieve the stress over her father’s gambling, Adrienne turned to graphic design as a form of therapy. The sense of tranquility that Adrienne felt through creating computer-generated art soon transformed into a fulfilling hobby that gave her the confidence to start her own successful graphic design business. Adrienne’s other passion is that of social justice and using her activism to make a change in her community. Adrienne hopes to become a public-interest lawyer in order to combat the social ills that catch her attention.

Now, instead of the memories of scattered casino chips and napkins around her house representing a doomed existence, Adrienne views it as a driving force with which to channel all her frustration toward a better future. The Capture the Dream, Inc. Scholarship Fund can help Adrienne, who is currently attending Brown University, continue on her mission to not only better herself, but also the world, one community at a time.

Vinnrique “Nikki” Cruz: 2009 George Geng On Lee – Minorities in Leadership Scholarship Recipient

Nikki Cruz never saw herself as a leader. As a Filipino woman with a disability and raised in a low income family, Nikki assumed that leadership roles were for other people. She assumed that leadership roles were only for people who came from privileged families. She felt oppressed by her background, and each day was a struggle for her.Read more

By the time Nikki graduated high school she was tired of fighting, and she had resigned herself to the fact that she would never be able to accomplish her goals. After graduating, Nikki moved out of her parents’ home and found work at Denny’s and In-n-Out. While working, she gained the courage to enroll in community college. At community college, her old fears began to melt away, and she began to recognize her true potential. Nikki realized that her background gave her a unique perspective that she could use to help others.

Through Project Shine, Nikki taught senior citizens English and led citizenship classes. Nikki also became involved in the leadership program at Project Shine, where she helped recent immigrants to develop their own leadership skills through public speaking and communication seminars.

While Nikki was busy helping other women to recognize their potential as minorities, she eventually realized that she too had the ability to be a strong and effective leader. Her background as a minority woman with a disability became a source of empowerment, instead of a hindrance. In two short years, Nikki was able to overcome her insecurities and graduate with honors.

Nikki’s journey didn’t end there. After completing her associate’s degree, Nikki was accepted at UC Berkeley. Upon transferring, she dove right back into her work with minorities. She became actively involved in a multi-cultural coalition dedicated to encouraging minorities to enroll in higher education, as well as the Philipino Academic Service Center and the Black Recruitment and Retention Center. She is also Vice Chair of the pre-law honors society, where she has implemented a program to assist minorities with the rigorous law school application process, and has created a free law clinic.

Nikki did not always know that she was destined to lead. But by leveraging the knowledge and insights gained through her unique experiences as a minority woman, she has been able to overcome obstacles to become a successful student leader. Nikki plans to apply to a joint JD and MA program within the next two years, but ultimately her goal is to continue her work to empower minorities. She wants to become a lawyer who will advocate for the needs of minority youth. Achieving her goal will give her the opportunity to challenge the system and continue to be an advocate and leader for minority communities.

Monica Novoa: 2008 Single Parent Scholarship Recipient

Sponsored By: Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s WNEAMonica Novoa is a student at CSU Channel Islands, working hard to earn degrees in Nursing and Psychology. Upon meeting her, you might think that Monica is just a typical college student, but she isn’t. 28 year old Monica has had to overcome a daunting amount of adversity to become the successful college student she is today. Read more

Being a young teenage mother surrounded by negative influences, Monica feared that she would end up as a high school drop out who worked at K Mart and lived off welfare. But that was not the life Monica wanted for herself or her son. Monica wanted to be a self sufficient and responsible mother with a good job, and she knew that completing high school was the only way to achieve her goal. For her Junior and Senior year, Monica juggled attending classes, going to summer school, studying hard, and raising her son. In 1997, she earned her high school diploma and celebrated her son’s second birthday.

Monica’s son strongly influenced her educational goals. Every time Monica took him to the hospital she was amazed by the doctors and the nurses. The medical staff’s dedication inspired Monica to dream about becoming a nurse. Monica soon enrolled in a technical college and became a certified medical technician. With her new qualifications, she was able to quit her waitressing job for a position at a medical clinic. Still dreaming about becoming a nurse, she enrolled in Ventura College’s nursing program. But soon after, tragedy befell Monica’s family. Her father passed away leaving her mother widowed and bankrupt. Hoping to reconcile, Monica welcomed her mother into her home. Unfortunately, her mother’s presence added an additional financial and emotional strain that forced Monica to drop out of school.

For two and a half years, Monica’s educational goals remained at a standstill while she worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet. During this time Monica found herself unfilled, so she sought counseling. With the counselor’s help, Monica re-discovered her dream. A newly inspired Monica applied for financial aid and scholarships, and was finally able to secure the money she needed to attend night classes. In 2006 she earned her Associate’s Degree from Ventura College along with a spot on the National Dean’s List.

Monica’s perseverance in the face of extreme adversity proves she deserves the Capture the Dream, Inc. 2008 Single Parent Scholarship. She will use the scholarship money to pursue her dream at CSU Channel Island’s Nursing Program. Her success and drive have instilled a strong value for education in her son who is now 12 years old, an honor role student, and her biggest inspiration.

Jordan Lee: 2008 George Geng On Lee – Minorities in Leadership Scholarship Recipient

Barstow High student Jordan Lee exemplifies the qualities of a George Geng On Lee – Minorities in Leadership Scholarship winner. As a Pueblo Laguna Tribe Member, Miss Barstow 2007, and Class President, Jordan has demonstrated that she is a role model and a passionate advocate for her community. Read more

To Jordan, being a leader means more than standing firm; being a leader means giving back. She learned this lesson through a government class assignment to complete ten hours of community service. At the time, ten hours seemed like an eternity, but in spite of her reluctance she pushed through the mandated hours. By the tenth hour Jordan was surprised to discover how much she actually enjoyed volunteering. She went beyond the required ten hours and started organizing and participating in various fundraisers and events. Her most notable achievements include the Barstow High School Blood Drive (2004 -2008); Hurricane Katrina Walk-a-thon (2005); Fire Relief Fundraiser (2007); and Pennies for Patients (2008).

Through philanthropy, Jordan learned that one compassionate action can make a difference. Philanthropy also challenged her definition of a leader. She realized that being leader meant more than being a role model, being a leader meant being an advocate for your community. With over 200 hours of community service completed and more than 150 community service events attended, Jordan has improved many lives in her community and proved that she is a strong and compassionate leader.

While Jordan strove to exemplify leadership and compassion in every aspect of her life, she did so with a greater goal in mind. Jordan’s dream is to become the first member of her family to attend a four year university. She hopes to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, and to use her degree to become a publicist who will voice the concerns of Native American tribes. As a member of the Pueblo Laguna Tribe, she is keenly aware of the challenges Native Americans struggle with in their daily lives. As a publicist, Jordan wants to author government proposals that will improve the living conditions on reservations while empowering Native Americans to overcome harmful stereotypes.

Jordan’s current success as a leader demonstrates that she is more than qualified to attend any university, but a lack of available aide has unfortunately made her dream difficult to realize. Fortunately, as a Capture the Dream, Inc. scholarship winner Jordan now has funds that will help to turn her dream into a reality. In Fall 2008 Jordan will attend CSU Fresno as a distinguished minority leader who will work hard to make her peers and her community proud.

Jordan believes that in life all people are confronted with a simple choice: Are you a leader, or are you a follower? For Jordan the answer was easy; she was a leader. At the young age of 12, Jordan put her decision into action and ran for Class President. With the witty slogan “Vote for me, Jordan Lee,” Jordan captured her school’s votes and became Class President of Barstow High School, and went on to win an additional six terms in that office. In Jordan’s words, “My class elected me for one reason, because I have the power to stand firm.”