Two Onward Honorific Program students were Class of 2022 tops in their class at Central Falls High School. Valedictorian Lyneth Mendoza is studying electrical engineering on a full scholarship at the University of Rhode Island and salutatorian Darisel Velez is at Brown University this fall, where she is considering majoring in political science or pre-law.
Mendoza said she chose URI not only because of the full ride, including room and board, but because it felt like the right size for her over larger schools she was accepted to in cities. She had participated in Onward summer programs in Kingston and said, “It’s more comfortable for me; I felt like just knew the campus.”
She can participate in the four-plus-one program to earn her master’s degree for the cost of one additional year and plans to add an undergraduate double major in computer engineering and minor in computer science. “I hope to work in a job where I’m able to be very hands-on – build robots or different types of prototypes and code and be collaborative working with people,” she said.
While in high school, Mendoza played soccer for three years and was captain her senior year. She participated in the Science Olympiad for three years and served as class secretary her senior year. “We wanted to make sure we had a good senior year. We did a lot of fundraising. Our prom budget was $14,000 and we raised almost $10,000 so prom tickets were only $25 per person. We wanted to make sure any student who wanted to go could go without having to raise the price.”
She also worked for her school in tech support and volunteered at the school where her mother works, Veterans Memorial Elementary School, in a program for newcomer students, many with language barriers, to help them learn about English, math, and social studies. She also held summer jobs for the city and participated in the Prepare RI Innovation Challenge, where her team came in third place.
Her parents, who emigrated from Colombia, always stressed the importance of education.
“My parents are both very hard-working and I appreciate them. My mom always made sure I was the best I could possibly be. Her main goal was that I go to college and become a professional and do more than what she could have done and just give me and my sister the opportunities that she couldn’t have.”
She said participating in Onward and helped her prepare for and apply for college.
“I knew I was going to go to college but it wasn’t like I had a lot of experience; my mom doesn’t know anything about the college process, so to go on these [Onward] college visits was really helpful to see the schools and learn what should I do be doing on a college trip or visit and helped me see these colleges that could be options when I was applying.”
Participating in the Honorific Program with Associate Director of College Admissions Ana Almeida provided even more help with the college process. “Without that program I would have been more lost because the college process was so hard,” she said.
“Ana is very helpful; she’s really knowledgeable and she’s always there for you. She knows what you should be doing – especially with the Ivy Leagues, she knows what they want – and she understands that the people she’s helping out are students who are going to be going to really good schools and want to do well in college,” Mendoza said. “She offers a lot of opportunities, and she has whole spreadsheets with scholarships. If everyone had an Ana they’d be so grateful for her.”