Actress Angelica Vale and Disney Imagineer Afredo Ayala encouraged middle-schoolers to pursue a college education.
While many a pep talk has taken place in a gymnasium, the one that students at UCLA Community School received last December is one that they will not soon forget.
Angelica Vale, actress and star of the popular telenovela,“La Fea Más Bella,” and Alfredo Ayala, a senior technical staff member in research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering, spoke to an excited audience of 6th-8th graders, encouraging them to pursue their dreams, regardless of any academic, cultural, or discriminatory barriers.
Speakers included Leyda Garcia, principal, UCLA Community School; Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, senior policy advisor and director of education and workforce development, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Alejandra Pérez Reguera García of the Televisa Foundation. The program was presented as part of Televisa Foundation’s national “Live the Dream” project. Intended to inspire English language learners in public schools to achieve academic excellence and aspire to college, the project brings successful Latino professionals and celebrities to K-12 audiences to share their experiences and to show young students that the face of success, can look like their own.
Melendez de Santa Ana described her wish to attend UCLA, only to be discouraged by her high school counselor and her parents, who felt that their daughter did not need a college education as much as their son did. She said that she finally ended up transferring to UCLA with mentoring and support from one of her professors at CSU Los Angeles.
“What you have in your heart, make sure that you stay true to that,” said Melendez de Santa Ana. “Don’t let go of your dreams, because they will come true.”
Ayala, who demonstrated great ability with mathematics as a young child, shared the importance of finding “a mentor who will help you achieve your goals.”
“Look at your teachers as mentors,” he said. “Don’t stay quiet. Talk to them, tell them your dreams.”
Vale, whose parents are actress and singer Angélica Maria and the late comedian Raúl Vale, said that she was told that she could only enter the family business of entertainment if she worked hard in school, and described how much studying and work went into landing the role of “La Fea Más Bella,” which was made into an English-language version, “Ugly Betty” on ABC. She encouraged the UCLA Community School students – most of whom speak either Spanish or Korean at home – to capitalize on knowing more than one language.
“If you’re bilingual, you’re cool,” said Vale to an enthusiastically cheering audience.
Ayala encapsulated the goals of UCLA Community School, addressing the multiethnic and multilingual audience of students.
“You are the future,” he said. “Looking at your faces, you are Asian, Latino, and African American. You have everyone here who needs to play a part.”
UCLA Community School was founded in 2009, through a unique partnership among the Los Angeles Unified School District, UCLA, and the Koreatown and Pico-Union communities of central Los Angeles. The K-12 school is located at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, on the historic site of the Ambassador Hotel.
For more information about UCLA Community School, click here.
Above: Students at UCLA Community School and Principal Leyda Garcia (at far right) get the paparazzi treatment during a visit from telenovela star Angelica Vale and Disney Imagineer Alfredo Ayala (at center of second row). Vale and Ayala spoke to students as part of the Televisa Foundation’s “Live the Dream” initiative.