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Meet Our 2021 Don Shalvey: Changing the Odds Award Winners!

Created in 2009 to honor Aspire’s founder, Don Shalvey, the award recognizes alumni, who like Don before them, are the first in their families to graduate from college, give back to their communities, and continue to demonstrate tenacity in the pursuit of College for Certain.

Each winner is selected from across our regions: the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Los Angeles area. This year’s award recipients are Melissa Medina, Juan Bolanos, and San Juana Deloa! 

Melissa Medina is an alumna of Vanguard College Preparatory Academy. After graduating in 2016, Melissa attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where she double majored in Sociology and Comparative Literature with a minor in Education. During her time there, she worked with the Orientation Program where her passion for helping students grew. Melissa graduated this past year during the pandemic, then began a dual masters and credential program with the Alder Graduate School of Education. Melissa recently graduated this June, and will begin teaching full-time with Vanguard this upcoming 2021-22 school year! She shared, “I am extremely excited to teach at my Alma Mater and to be able to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”

Juan Bolanos graduated from Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy in June of 2010, and shortly after attended UC Berkeley. Despite experiencing some new challenges and “culture shock,” Juan graduated from Cal in four years with a degree in Political Science. After searching for his next opportunity in his career and life, Lionel Wilson staff, Ms. Malinoski, and Mr. Robertson offered Juan an opportunity to return to his alma mater as an AmeriCorps member in the Fall of 2014. Juan shared more on his full-circle journey, “From there, I was able to find myself and develop myself professionally at the place that I was developed academically. I continued to feel love and support from the community, so I ended up applying for an after-school position to be fully employed by Aspire. Through hard work and dedication, I was able to continue to move up in rankings to the Academic Counselor position that I hold today.”

San Juana Deloa is a Program Associate at Equality California, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, and a Freedom Dreams Lab Fellow with Transcend. San Juana has a background in education, community organizing, marketing, communications, and public relations. She most recently taught middle school in Houston, Texas as a Teach for America Corps Member. San Juana holds a Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University, her dream school while a student at Aspire Pacific Academy in Huntington Park. A native Californian, San Juana is excited to be back in her home state and her next opportunity to pursue a master’s degree. In her spare time, you can catch her reading on the beach, hiking trails with her dog Brooklyn, or exploring coffee shops all over Southern California.

Congratulations to our 2021 Don Shalvey: Changing the Odds award recipients! To learn more about our alumni and past winners, click here.

Our 2021 Award Recipients!