Mountain View Voice

Opinion - December 6, 2013

Education foundation gets boost from Whole Foods

by Jennifer Pence

This year, for the first time, the Burwen Education Foundation will gain substantial support from Whole Foods Market in Los Altos at 4800 El Camino Real, which will donate 5 percent of its proceeds on Dec. 10 to the foundation. Mountain View residents David and Susan Burwen, who started the foundation in 2002, will staff a table at Whole Foods to explain how their efforts have helped numerous local students graduate from a four-year college and often go on to attend grad school.

This year's winner of a full-ride scholarship will be Mountain View High School senior Jessica Fernandez, who plays in the marching band, works as a zookeeper in training at CuriOdyssey, volunteers weekly to help an autistic child and competes with the robotics team, of which she is currently vice president. All of this is in addition to taking multiple AP classes and maintaining a 4.0 weighted GPA.

Jessica may sound like the typical overachieving MVHS student, but what isn't so typical about her is that she grew up in a neighborhood where she was used to hearing gunshots, lost a cousin to gang violence and was told by family friends, "You put so much effort into your education but watch — you'll get pregnant at 15. You won't last high school."

In addition to naming a student from the AVID program at MVHS as its main scholarship recipient this year, the foundation selects eight to 10 honorable mention scholars who receive one-time $500 awards. The main scholar will receive extensive mentoring and a multi-year scholarship that, in combination with other financial aid, allows most to graduate from college debt-free. Mentoring includes advice and support on everything from course selection to roommate issues, from finding internships to post-college assistance with jobs and grad school applications.

Nationally, only 11 percent of low-income first-generation college students complete a bachelor's degree within six years, but BEF scholars have an over-90 percent completion rate, and graduates have earned or are currently working on graduate degrees including a medical degree, a master's in engineering, a graduate degree in chemistry, and a master's in counseling.

"Being honored as the winner has truly opened up my doors to another limitless level," said Jessica. She is currently in the process of applying to a long list of public and private colleges, and once she receives her acceptances, she will have the opportunity to visit her top choices, courtesy of the BEF.

Jessica is joined by 2013 BEF honorable mention recipients Brittany Austin, Glenda Chavez, Selina Ellis, Elizabeth Ortiz, Carlos Pacheco-Miranda, Erin Rempola, Michael Torio, Cecilia Valencia, Odalys Vallejo, and Karlwillie Wilson.

To learn more or donate to help the BEF support other MVHS students like Jessica, please see befmountainview.wordpress.com or shop at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos on Dec. 10, when foundation officials will be available to answer questions from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Jennifer Pence is executive director of the Burwen Education Foundation

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