More than 100 Latino students were honored last week during the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District's third-annual Latino Achievement Awards Ceremony.
The bilingual event at Los Altos High School on March 29 brought together school officials, community leaders and parents to show support and pride for the progress the Latino students make in the local schools.
"I can honestly say that this is one of my most favorite nights of the entire school year," said Barry R. Groves, district superintendent. "The No. 1 priority for our school district is the academic achievement of all students, and particularly our Latino students."
In total, 111 young men and women received recognition in a variety of academic, athletic and service areas. Honored were students like Alexandra Ballesteros, whose grade-point average puts her in the top 5 percent of her senior class; Paul Isaac Hernandez for his achievements as a student-scholar; , who won the Principal's Award; and , who snagged a school service medal.
According to district figures, Latino students comprise 21 percent of the total student population, or 733 out of 3,472. Of these, 300 attend and make of 17 percent of the student body; 433 attend LAHS and make up 26 percent of that population.
"When I attended Los Altos High School, I believe there were five Latinos honored for academic achievement," said Oscar Garcia, a 1987 LAHS graduate and now CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce of Mountain View. "It's nice to see the support the students have now."
The proportion of Latino students in the local schools reflect the 2010 census, which showed that Hispanics made up , up from 18.3 percent in 2000, with a population increase from 12,911 to 16,071.
Nationally, Hispanics accounted for 43 percent of the growth of the total population growth from 2000-10, rising from 35.3-50.5 million to account for 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.
"We still have a lot of work to do as educators to get more Latinos to finish high school and enter two-year community colleges and four-year institutions," said Alma Sifuentes, associate vice chancellor and dean of students at University of California, Santa Cruz. "But I think this is a start."
Sifuentes addressed the students as did Miriam Rivera, an attorney and venture capitalist. Both principals, Keith Moody of MVHS and Wynne Satterwhite of LAHS, helped award their students.
Iris Albelo, the mother of junior Bryan Medina—who's in the top 5 percent in his class at Los Altos High—was one of the scores of parents not only proud of her child but of the children of others, too.
"I feel very proud to be here and to see so many Latino students with such pretty dreams," said Albelo. "I'm happy that they are able to recognize their accomplishments and efforts with this activity."
Correction April 4 at 2 p.m.: Oscar Garcia's quote was changed to reflect that there were only five students honored at a similar event, not only five students at Los Altos High in 1987.