Class of 2018 Spotlight: Bell High sending two Gates Scholarship winners to the Ivy League

Class of 2018 Spotlight: Bell High sending two Gates Scholarship winners to the Ivy League

Above, from left, Bell High School Principal Rafael Balderas, students Ailene Torres, Beatrice Castillo and Magnet Coordinator Mario Apodaca.

Gates Scholarship winners Beatrice Castillo, left, and Ailene Torres are stellar graduates of Bell High School’s STEM Magnet.

The tweet that Principal Rafael L. Balderas posted about two of his graduates read like a message a proud parent would write:

“So proud of @bellhighschool Gifted STEM Magnet Scholars Beatrice Castillo @Harvard bound & Ailene Torres @Columbia bound who were awarded the Gates Scholarship!”

The graduates of Bell’s gifted/highly gifted STEM Magnet are among 300 exceptional students nationwide to receive a Gates Scholarship. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation introduced the scholarship this year to support Hispanic students who qualify for financial aid.

“It is with pride and joy that I was able to serve as principal to both Beatrice and Aileen for the last four years,” Balderas said. “They are remarkable and intelligent young women who will make an impact at both Columbia and Harvard. After graduation, I am more than confident these young scholars will move mountains, change the current landscape and, more importantly, change the world.”

Castillo will be the first in her family to go to college when she heads off to Harvard. Neither of her parents finished high school, and she learned to rely on her grandfather for encouragement, listening closely during his calls from Mexico as he insisted that she could achieve a higher education. She dove into the STEM program at Bell, joined school leadership and pursued community activities. With guidance from Bell’s magnet coordinator, Mario Apodaca, Beatrice decided she wants to become an environmental science researcher and help others understand global warming.

“Beatrice has a keen mind and a strong sense of self. She puts her whole heart into learning as much as she can each and every day,” Apodaca said.  “Her passion for the things she believes in will lead her to the halls of the House and Senate in Washington, D.C.”

The magnet coordinator also worked with another senior Ailene Torres, who will attend Columbia University in New York, where she plans to major in mechanical engineering.

“Ailene is a driven and fierce competitor,” Apodaca said. “She wants to be the best and is persistent in reaching all of the impressive goals she sets for herself.  Someday, I expect to read about Ailene’s work at NASA, JPL, or SpaceX.”

Ailene is inspired by her mother, who works in the Garment District, her fingers dyed blue as she makes the $250 designer jeans that neither of them can afford.

“Those blue fingers and the labor behind them drive me to be the best student I can be,” Ailene wrote in her college application. “There’s no question that my mother has taught me the importance of hard work. Following her example, I have sacrificed sleep and pushed myself everyday through the rigors of my AP classes to keep my grades up. Her words and actions showed me that she wanted to provide me with opportunities that were never available to her.”

Apodaca said the success of Beatrice and Ailene reflects the school’s efforts to foster the skills and talent of all of their students.

“Both are great young women who have fantastic opportunities and futures ahead of them,” he said. “As the magnet coordinator, I would like to be depicted as being a part of the school’s support system executing the mission of the Bell High School Gifted STEM Magnet.”


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LAUSD Shines

UCLA high school volunteer wins state Science Fair – UCLA/Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

School nurses are essential in meeting students’ health needs – California Educator

Honoring ArTES teacher Nicole Mathis-Berman –

28,000 L.A. preschoolers are learning how to be better humans – KPCC-98.3

Students get hands-on training at Dignity Northridge Hospital – Daily News

The Wildgrove Wildlands help city kids connect with the natural world – The Argonaut

lluminating science for blind students, with help from latest tech devices – EdSource

Computer science education a ‘growing movement’ in Los Angeles Unified – EdScoop

Q&A with Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian – The Pearl Post (Daniel Pearl Communications Magnet)

Military veterans recruited for teaching positions – KABC-Channel 7

Emerging LA filmmakers create short films with small budgets and big ideas – Apple Newsroom

CSTA and announce the 2017 Champions for Computer Science – Medium magazine

How L.A. Unified Cultivates Districtwide Digital Citizenship – Common Sense Education

Around the world, and earning all A’s – The Newport (R.I.) Daily News

LAUSD, IBU and DAS Collaborate to Create the New Merchant Mariner Apprenticeship Program – Apprenticeship/California Department of Industrial Relations

Opinion: Students accepted through preferred gender pronouns – Los Angeles Times Insider

These 10 L.A. high schools are the best at getting their graduates to college – Los Angeles Times

Now San Pedro Schools Came Through for Texas Hurricane Victims – Daily Breeze

LAUSD Making a Comeback with Instructional Technology – Converge Magazine

Dr. Frances Gipson honored as Top 30 Award recipient – Converge Magazine

Refusing to Leave Anyone Behind, Teacher Unites Kids of All Abilities for Special Education Event –

New EdD in Educational Leadership graduate Michelle King named National Superintendent of the Year – USC Rossier School of Education

Pin Up, Don’t Shut Up – Public High School Art for the Scapegoats of Humanity – Random Lengths Magazine

East Bay Softball Inks Catcher Desiree Jimmy – Cal State East Bay Pioneers Athletics

California Highway Patrol flips pancakes and scrambles eggs for Dorsey High School Law Magnet Students – Los Angeles Sentinel

California Teacher of the Year from North Hills to throw first pitch at Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Daily News

Cleveland High band program marches on after years with no teacher, little money – Los Angeles Daily News

Valley View Elementary turns 100, as will dozens of other LAUSD schools in the next five years  – LASchoolReport

10 Dedicated and Deserving Social Workers includes L.A. Unified’s Verónica Obregón – Social Work Today

‘Cool Kid’ Camille Ng spreads warmth to kids in need – KABC-7

LAUSD Schools get new gyms through UCLA Health’s ‘Sound Body Sound Mind’ program – KABC-7

LAPD officers spread holiday cheer at Van Nuys elementary school – Los Angeles Daily News

Burrowing Owl delights students, staff at urban school –

Essay: The Translated Life, From Immigrant to Valedictorian. – NBC News

Dorsey students complete College Board pilot class. – L.A. Sentinel

Girls Academic Leadership Academy: A unique opportunity.– Jewish Journal

Modern Trades: The rise of continuing tech education. – KPCC

West Valley Occupational Center celebrates 50 years. – Los Angeles Daily News

Linked Learning the focus of innovative high school. – Education Writers of America

How high-schoolers channel the drama of middle school experience into dramatic performance. – KPCC

Night at the museum? Try a week. These fourth-graders did and it changed their world. – KPCC

Music, arts programs at LA schools increasing after years of decline. – Los Angeles Daily News

Coeur d’Alene Elementary: One school’s journey towards instructional excellence. – Cotsen Foundation

Video: Venice High School celebrates top seniors. Yo Venice

Student identity through the arts. Huffington Post

Op-Ed: Supt. Michelle King on frog dissections, STEM and the future of charters in LAUSD. Los Angeles Times

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