CARLSBAD — Padres Scholar Ayrton Lopez, 14, has advice for kids who are struggling in school because of conflicts at home.
“Don’t let problems around you affect you,” he said. “Use them to your advantage. I learned to be more independent and not to be dependent on the help of others. If I have a question, I turn to books to find the answer.”
A freshman at Carlsbad High School, he was nominated for the Padres scholarship last school year by Nina Amatore, his AVID teacher at Calaveras Hills Middle School. AVID stands
for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is an elective course that targets academically average students from families without a tradition of college into advanced classes with the goal of attending one of California’s four-year colleges. The AVID class is an intensive college-prep curriculum that includes tips on note-taking, SAT preparation, intensive writing instruction, motivational talks and college campus visits.
“In the AVID program in middle school, there are few students who stand out and volunteer their time,” she said. “After finishing his tutorial, Ayrton would go around the classroom on his own time to help others. He also volunteered to read to first-graders. He has a positive attitude and excels at helping others. He is old beyond his years.”
Ayrton was excited to be interviewed for the scholarship at Petco Park, the Padres’ stadium. Joy Suber, manager of AVID programs for the San Diego County Office of Education, led the interview.
“She asked why I wanted to be a Padres Scholar and why I deserved it,” he said. “I said, ‘It’s a good opportunity and I know money’s tight (in my family).’”
Suber said the interview process is important because it reveals a person’s passion and goals. Pressure to live up to expectations after winning the scholarship can cause some students to buckle.
“What Ayrton expressed really left an indelible mark in my memory,” she said. “This child will not only appreciate being a Padres Scholar, he’ll live up to the expectations — his own, his family’s, his teachers’, his community’s.”
Suber is confident that Ayrton will go far in his career.
“Ayrton’s going to rise above his circumstances, take some negative experiences and make them into positive ones for others,” she said.
The Padres Scholars program awards college scholarships to 30 academically talented, financially disadvantaged public middle school students in San Diego County each year. Each scholarship is $7,000 (plus accrued interest), and is used for tuition and books. It is payable upon matriculation into a four-year college.
Ayrton plans to use his scholarship to study architecture and drafting at USC or UCLA.
“I’ve had this goal since an architect visited my classroom on Career Day in seventh grade,” he said. “I was interested in what architects do, how much money they make and what classes I would have to take. I like to draw and want to build my own home some day.”
Since his parents separated things have been easier at home.
Ayrton feels a responsibility to his mother, Maria San Luis, a Head Start teacher; brother Denilson, 4; and especially to his sister Cibele, 12, who is in sixth grade at Calaveras Hills Middle School.
“She looks up to me,” he said. “Some of my old friends (at Calaveras Hills) put her down for being in sixth grade. I tell them, ‘You went through this, too. You know how it feels.’”