The goal of L.A. Unified is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to graduate prepared for college, career and life. As we near the end of the school year, we are featuring stories about some of the outstanding members of the Class of 2017.
The first acceptance letter arrived in February from Yale University, followed in quick succession by letters from UC Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Soon, invitations to enroll were pouring in from the nation’s top public and private post-secondary schools.
And by the time the deluge ended, José Aberto Aceves Salvador had been accepted to 19 colleges and universities.
“It was amazing,” said Aceves, who has decided to attend MIT in the fall. “I was just really, really happy.”
With a 4.2 grade-point average, Aceves is the valedictorian at the New Open World Academy, located on the campus of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.
He is juggling a schedule packed with Advanced Placement Chemistry, Government and English, along with pre-calculus and Korean. Add in 90 minutes a day of swim practice – he’s on RFK’s water polo and swimming teams – plus after-school club meetings and mentoring sessions, and Aceves has a day that starts before dawn and ends late into the night.
His stellar grades, coupled with extensive community service projects and extracurricular activities, have earned him nearly $50,000 in scholarships. His honors include the Beat the Odds Scholarship from the Children’s Defense Fund, a $10,000 award that recognizes his ability to succeed despite a turbulent home life that includes addiction and economic uncertainty. The scholarship money will go a long way toward supporting Aceves’ bio-engineering major at MIT, a private university in Cambridge that will be paying 90 percent of his tuition.
“Ever since he was in sixth grade, he was a great academic student,” said John Aquino, a college counselor at the NOW Academy. “He has always stood out over the years.”
Aceves is already familiar with MIT, having spent six weeks there last summer, taking an introductory program in science and engineering.
“There are so many opportunities there for engineering,” he said of his decision to attend the prestigious private university. “I love the environment. It’s very nurturing and fun.”
Aceves envisions working in research or for a biotechnology firm after he graduates from college, but he also has plotted out a mid-career change.
“After I work for a while, I want to come back to Los Angeles and be a teacher or professor in academia,” he said. “I saw how my teachers influence and motivated me. I want to be that figure for someone else.”