By Maria Gonzalez
Within three weeks, Christian Aviles went from being the recipient of a $30,000 scholarship to a homeless man walking the streets with his family.
They have since found another place to live, and Aviles is again able to focus on the studies that led him to the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship.
After he was awarded the scholarship, Aviles’s family was homeless for about one week because the place where they were living in was closed down.
“For five days we stayed in a hotel, and on the sixth day my family ran out of money.
“For the entire day, we were walking around Downtown LA, and we stayed at the public library for a bit until it got dark. At 10 p.m., we were literally freaking out.
“We’d have to spend a night on the street, and obviously since we couldn’t afford that night, the next two nights were the same.
“On top of this, I had schoolwork, essays to write, tests, etc.,” said Aviles.
He and his family have now found an apartment in which to live.
Aviles was sitting in his earth science class when found out he won the scholarship. He describes this moment as a complete shock to him because he was losing hope that he would receive the award. Weeks passed and he had not heard from them.
“Paulina Palomino came into the room. They had balloons and everything,” said Aviles. “My classmates and I thought they were probably celebrating my teacher’s anniversary, ‘cause he’s been teaching here for a while.
“They called my name, and I went into complete shock,” said Aviles.
After he received the scholarship, Aviles went home and shared his accomplishment with his family.
“When I told my family, they were really proud and happy for me,” he said.
Although his education is now secured with the $30,000 scholarship, a week later he and his family went through a struggle.
He is currently a volunteer at the Los Angeles Public Library, where he teaches basic reading and writing skills to adults.
“I love giving back to my community. Inspiring another person is truly self-rewarding,” said Aviles.
Aviles attended Roosevelt High School, where he was part of the magnet program during the four years he was there.
Although he was accepted at the University of California, Los Angeles and the UC Berkeley in his senior year of high school, Aviles decided not to go because he felt it was not the right time for him.
At the same time, Aviles started doing community service at a women’s domestic violence shelter, which he said was a rewarding experience for him.
However, it was not easy for him sometimes to transition from high school to college.
“I grew a lot as a writer in my English 101 class, and did community service,” he said.
Before he had received the scholarship, Aviles decided that he was going to attend UC Berkeley. He changed his plans and will attend Amherst College this Fall semester.
Amherst is a private, liberal arts college in Massachusetts.
He changed his plans because he would rather go to a school where he is going to have one-on-one experience like he had at ELAC.
“At Amherst I’m going to have 10 persons per class, whereas in UC like Berkeley the chances of having a one-on-one with a professor is not common,” said Aviles.
Counselor Palomino, who organized and advertised this scholarship, is happy to hear that Aviles will be attending Amherst college.
“This is a prestigious and very selective school. Last year only 45 Latino students were accepted to Amherst,” said Palomino. “He is passionate about succeeding, and giving back to his community.”
Aviles wants to double major in anthropology and either English or history.
Inspired by his anthropology professor, Julienne Bernard, he has become passionate about that subject
“What really makes Christian stand out is the passion he brings to his study of anthropology,” said Bernard
“He really immerses himself in the material, and he always goes above and beyond each and every assignment, always wanting to learn more.”
Moreover, he talks about how this is part of a rite of passage for him.
“Going to Amhermst College is my rite of passage, as I am separating myself temporarily from this community to learn about new cultures,” said Aviles.
“Your social class should not determine how far you can get in life,” said Aviles.