Video Credit: Joseph Foulk, Ernesto Sanchez and Roberto Lazarte Aguilar
Sandra Amezcua Rocha, 17, grew up in South El Monte in a two-bedroom home where she shared one bedroom with four of her siblings. The rows of large trash bins that line the alleyways outside her apartment and their recyclables are what inspired her to become an environmental activist.
It is between these concrete walls that make up her neighborhood that her passion first grew for a future with clean, renewable energy for everyone. Now, she is determined to use education to pursue environmental studies or engineering and bring back what she learns to her community.
“Coming home and seeing my family exhausted, I knew the only way out is to get an education,” said Sandra, a senior at South El Monte High School, who would find refuge in the school’s library to finish her homework and projects.
“Growing up here, the community is tight. The kids here don’t know anything about the outside, just the cement,” she said. “I want to be able to come back and show them that there is more than just the gray of the suburbs. To have access to renewable energy at little to no cost … to be around trees and not trash.”
Sandra’s dreams of ensuring communities like hers have access to renewable energy came closer to reality in a surprise announcement from Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison, that she has been selected as one of 30 Edison Scholars.
As her classmates and family gathered in the school’s library during her AP Spanish Literature class for the surprise, Sandra was presented with a medal and a large check for $40,000 from shareholder dollars.
“You said you wanted to help bring renewable energy to disadvantaged communities and we believe in that too,” said Pedro Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO, as he made the presentation amid ‘go Sandra!’ cheers. “We are very proud of you and what you want to do for our community. And we are so happy that we can help make your dream of college come true.”
Whether these students join us in the future or go onto other things, we feel that we are investing in their futures. It’s one of the ways we are serving the communities that we are part of.
He noted that, “whether these students join us in the future or go onto other things, we feel that we are investing in their futures. It’s one of the ways we are serving the communities that we are part of.”
Edison International has awarded $8.7 million through the Edison Scholars program since 2006 to 610 students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) in college. Students receiving the $40,000 scholarships must live in SCE’s service territory and have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and demonstrate financial need.
Sandra’s sister, Isaura, 23, flew in from New York where she works as an immigration paralegal to help surprise her little sister.
“It’s really exciting and I’m really proud,” she said. “She is such a hardworking student.”
Sandra’s mother, Soledad Rocha, recalls how the fourth of her six children was always aware of her surroundings, especially nature and the importance of recycling and the environment.
“That’s what makes her so special,” she said.
“This [scholarship] means a new beginning for her to have a bright future,” said Sandra’s father, Jose Amezcua. “We are very happy and we want to thank Edison for making these scholarships available.”
So far, Sandra has been accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA. She is still waiting to hear back from Yale before deciding where she will pursue her environmental studies degree.
“This [scholarship] means … security and hope for something great,” she said. “It’s also for the other kids, to never give up.”
For more information: EdisonScholars.com.
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