Academic achievements of foster kids recognized by Rising Star Awards

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Luis Torres, manager of the IVROP Project ACE program, and staff member Stella Diaz present awards to foster children Tuesday during the first annual Rising Star Awards held at the Imperial County Department of Social Services in El Centro. Photo by Daniella Rodiles

EL CENTRO – Families and friends gathered at the Imperial County Department of Social Services for the first Rising Star Awards Tuesday afternoon organized by the Imperial Valley Regional Occupation (IVROP) Project ACE (Accessing Careers through Education) Program where Imperial Valley foster children from kindergarten to 12th grade were recognized for their academic achievements.

Project ACE is funded by Imperial County Social Services, and the program received donations from the community, teachers, Imperial County Behavioral Health program and Imperial Valley College.

Luis Torres, program manager of IVROP Project ACE, said they organized and set up the event with the help of three staff members and volunteers from Americorps and Imperial Valley College.

Often, foster youth have difficulties in school with grades or attendance because they constantly move between foster homes and schools or suffer from personal issues, according to Torres. Over 70 children were awarded with a certificate in recognition of their school accomplishments along with prizes and a t-shirt at the event.

Project ACE staff began working on the event four to six months ago with the goal to encourage children to excel in school and join in extracurricular activities. Teachers, mentors, and social workers from all over the Valley nominated foster children for perfect attendance, student of the month, honor roll, good grades and for joining in extracurricular activities, said Torres.

“I’m very happy to see this many youth, because I didn’t know what the outcome would be. Foster youth do struggle in school, so it’s very good for the community to advocate and support programs like this whenever they have a chance. Whether it’s being a foster parent or make donations,” said Torres.

Children had the opportunity to meander through different informational booths as the National Youth Project, Americorps program, Imperial Valley MESA program, Calexico Robotics program, FFA El Centro Chapter Program, ICEOP program, IVROP Project Work Ability program, and Trio Talent Search of IVC all presented information about their programs.

Guests enjoyed pizza, snacks and refreshments and a special performance from the Heber drumline. Children quickly settled to the front of the room and watched with amazement the loud drumming and rhythmic movements of the young drummers.

Joshua Lopez, a former student of the IVROP Project ACE program, gave an inspirational speech on his personal struggles in school and how his mentor helped him stay in sports. Now a counselor for Holtville Unified School District, Lopez encouraged the students to persevere in school and join in all types of activities.

“You can’t let what happened to us in the past continue to affect in the future. Whatever you love to do, apply yourself to it and you will achieve your dreams,” Lopez said.