upretreat 8

During the last weekend in October, the senior class of 111 students from University Prep Value High School experienced the Virtus Arete Senior Retreat in Big Bear, California.

Started at Central City Value High School in 2007, the four-day retreat was originally modeled after the Catholic youth program entitled Kairos. Value Schools secularized major components of the retreat and now provides a sustained and focused experience for students, faculty and staff.

Since its inception, every graduating senior from Value Schools can participate in this unique, four-day experience. Now poised with its first graduating senior class, University Prep Value High School joins other Value Schools alumni in the pantheon of students that have come before.

Grounded and framed by the five values, the designed exercises help students reflect on their lives by examining their choices, their relationships, and their self-perceptions. The students contemplate their personal and educational prospects, and imagine how the values can be used to accomplish greater goals.

Click to see the retreat!

The gathering helps remind us we are stronger together, and that by trusting ourselves and our colleagues, we can work together for a better future.

Alumni from left to right: Javier Pizarro, Casey Kristin Frye, Ana Hernandez, Bryant Miranda, Edgar Ballesteros, Justin Loew, Virginia Reyes, and Value Schools Board President Grant L. Cambridge at Vespaio.

Board Chair Grant L. Cambridge rang in the New Year with Value Schools alumni at Vespaio, a new restaurant near the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

The dinner has become an annual tradition, giving alumni an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments since graduation, and consider the opportunities and challenges they face as they move forward.

"It is remarkable to see the individual development of our alumni,” said Mr. Cambridge. “Their achievements are a testament to the opportunities one has graduating from the Value Schools."

Students reflected on how to best manage time between school, evolving social lives, and part-time work. They debated how best to overcome personal obstacles and set goals. And they discussed the sacrifices they and their families have made along the way.

It is remarkable to see the individual development of our alumni. Their achievements are a testament to the opportunities one has graduating from the Value Schools."
- Grant Cambridge, Value Schools Board Chair

Virginia Reyes, now in her second year as a Political Science major at UC Berkeley, participated in an international exchange program that took her to France and Italy.  Virginia learned to speak French while living with a family in Paris, and is on track to graduate in three years by taking on 20+ course credits per segment! Virginia would like to relocate back to Los Angeles upon graduation.

Justin Loew is also in his second year at UC Berkeley majoring in Public Health with a minor in Sociology. Justin took additional college classes before arriving at Berkeley and was well prepared for the challenge.

Bryant Miranda is the newest arrival on the UC Berkeley campus, and is doing very well, majoring in Cognitive Science.

Ana Hernandez is attending UC San Diego's Human Biology program and is interested in becoming a nurse. Most of her classes are pre-medical subjects such as biology, chemistry, and physics.  Ana admits the course work is a challenge, but is up to the task!

Javier Pizarro is currently in his first year at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where he received a full scholarship.  Javier is enjoying the liberal arts program at Sarah Lawrence, which is heavily oriented to writing and communication. In addition to writing 20-page papers on theorems for Calculus class, he is also studying Italian.

Edgar Ballesteros is in his final year at UC Santa Barbara, majoring in English, and minoring in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).  While at UC Santa Barbara, Edgar has also become a small business owner, creating a highly sought after line of casual beach attire which has been very popular on campus.  Edgar is considering applying his TESOL skills in Japan, as well as pursuing a masters degree.  

Casey Kristin Frye discussed her life after graduation. Casey graduated from UCLA in 2015 and has begun her new career with Teach for America (TFA).  She is now living in Connecticut and is teaching 4th grade.  Casey now revels to see the academic success of her own students after their first year together!

Congratulations to all the Value Schools alumni! We are proud of your accomplishments, and look forward to hearing more about what lies ahead!

Casey Frye with her mother and sisters at UCLA Graduation
Casey Kristin Frye with her mother, brother, and niece at UCLA Graduation

Four years ago, Casey Kristin Frye joined her senior Central City Value classmates at Immanuel Presbyterian Church to receive her high school diploma.  She was valedictorian of her class, a top athlete, and was awarded the first-ever Chairman’s Scholarship.  It turned out this was just a start in a long line of “firsts.”

Last week, Casey crossed a larger stage, together with over 7,000 other graduates, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) commencement ceremony!

But crossing the stage to receive her college diploma did not come easily or without struggle. It took, as Casey put it, "four years of immense energy, adaptation, chronic sleep deprivation, and soul searching."

Before she began her college career, Casey was one of 72,000 applicants to UCLA, and the first Central City Value graduate to attend the famous institution; she was the first in her family to graduate college; and is now the first Value Schools graduate to be accepted to the prestigious Teach for America (TFA) program.

One thing I've found is the most effective way to give back is to give from within."
-- Casey Kristin Frye

"There is no doubt the Values influenced my experience in college," said Casey. "But the one that had the most impact was Value Number Five. I can honestly say it is because of the skills I gained as a leader, watching my own teachers lead by example, and the responsibility I feel to give back to the community that got me into TFA."

With a TFA teaching assignment in Connecticut, Casey is traveling across the country, intent on sharing her educational success with others as an educator and example for us all.

Casey Frye and Value Schools Board Chair Grant Cambridge at UCLA Graduation
Casey Kristin Frye with Value Schools' Board Chair Grant Cambridge at UCLA Graduation

"Growing up, I was constantly fed the idea that getting a good education was 'the way out' of the 'hood," Casey said. "Having gone to college to study education, I've learned that 'getting out' is one of the worst things I could ever do for my community. One thing I've found is the most effective way to give back is to give from within.

"Yes, this can be interpreted to mean to give from within oneself," Casey explained, "but this is not entirely correct. I mean to give back from within a community – within the heart of a community. Looking back at my experiences at Central City Value, it is not the curriculum I hold dear. It is the relationships with others I developed while I was there... with friends and teachers in and out of the classroom. They are my favorite part of what I remember, and without their decisions to give back from within, I imagine my life would look very different than it does now."

As we watched her progress, Casey became a powerful role model for students at Central City Value.  Her dedication and commitment provided a template for students to show courage, rise to the challenge, and broaden their educational horizons.

Today, many Value Schools graduates are continuing their educational experience at top colleges around the country - not just UCLA but the Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, and Santa Barbara campuses of the University of California; Sarah Lawrence College, and Mount Saint Mary College (NY).

Value Schools thanks Casey for sharing her enthusiasm, vision, and experience over the years. We are excited to see what “firsts” still lay ahead for Casey Frye!  Congratulations Casey!

Casey Frye (class of 2011, currently graduating from UCLA), Justin Loew (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), Edgar Ballesteros (class of 2012, currently attending UCSB), Virginia Reyes (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), and Roxana Martinez (class of 2012, attending UCLA) with Grant Cambridge at the Value Schools’ Scholars Dinner
Casey Frye (class of 2011, currently graduating from UCLA), Justin Loew (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), Edgar Ballesteros (class of 2012, currently attending UCSB), Virginia Reyes (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), and Roxana Martinez (class of 2012, attending UCLA) with Grant Cambridge at the Value Schools’ Scholars Dinner.

Grant Cambridge celebrated the holidays and looked forward to an exciting new year with former graduates and scholarship recipients of Central City Value High School.

A time to celebrate the growing success of Value School scholarship recipients, former graduates Casey Frye (class of 2011, currently graduating from UCLA), Justin Loew (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), Edgar Ballesteros (class of 2012, currently attending UCSB), Virginia Reyes (class of 2013, currently attending UC Berkeley), and Roxana Martinez (class of 2012, attending UCLA) all participated in the now annual Value Schools’ Scholars Dinner.

Even though each graduate is now at a different phase of his or her own educational career, each realized there was some common ground. All our scholars have been encouraged, financially and otherwise, by Grant Cambridge, the Value Schools Board of Directors and other generous donors to pursue their college education at institutions throughout the state and the country.

Mr. Cambridge, who along with other generous benefactors, provided personal and financial support for these students in their first years of college. Mr. Cambridge reflected on the evening, saying, "It thrills me to see the investment in our kids paying off. It gives me a real sense of joy to see their success and hear about their accomplishments. It's why I continue to do what I do."

Value Schools is proud of our scholars, and will stay in touch to hear more about their accomplishments. Happy New Year to all our Value Schools Alumni!

Eduardo S. recently received a scholarship from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF)Eduardo S., a 2014 Central City Value High School graduate, recently received a scholarship from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF). Among hundreds of applicants, Eduardo was presented the top award - $15,000 to augment his first year of college-level education at University of California, Irvine!

As part of its commitment to the Hispanic community, HSF aims to provide eligible high school seniors with the opportunity to pursue higher education. HSF awards twenty $2,500 grants per year, and only one $15,000 grant, and is limited to promising Hispanic high school seniors who show strong leadership and academic skills.

Scholarship opportunities like this are available to many of our students at Central City Value, but many need guidance when identifying and applying for them.  Because of the support Value Schools has received over the last year from generous and forward-thinking donors, Central City Value’s College Counseling Office, led by Ms. Diosdado, has expanded to great success.

And Eduardo is a prime example! The support he received from Ms. Diosdado and teachers like Mr. Lamarre (who provided a strong letter of recommendation), motivated Eduardo to share his good news with those who supported his endeavors.

“I called my mom first, who was at work. But then I called Ms. Diosdado and Mr. Lamarre and thanked them for their help. There was no way I could have accomplished this without them.”

We are proud of Eduardo and his impressive accomplishment, and know it will be one of many!  Eduardo has offered to give back to other Central City Value students by helping them with college and scholarship applications, and to share his experiences. Congratulations Eduardo, and keep up the fabulous work at UC Irvine!

Jamrensze Torres on the campus of University of California, Irvine
Jamrensze Torres on the campus of University of California, Irvine

For Jamrensze, or Jammie as her friends call her, the first year attending the University of California, Irvine has brought her challenges and a new sense of independence.  As a straight-A student when attending Central City Value, Jammie thought college would be a breeze.  After all, she had a 4.5 GPA, took every AP class offered, and still had time for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities.  But the first quarter at UC Irvine wasn’t as easy as she’d expected. 

“The quarter system flies by super fast,” Jammie explains.  “I had a hard time adjusting.  They suggested having an hour between classes, and I thought I’d spend that time doing homework.  But the reality is you spend it traveling from one class to another, getting food, or trying to get to the next class of 400 students a bit early for good seats.  Suddenly there was so much work to do, I wasn’t sure what I should be doing!”

Because Jammie didn’t have professors looking over her shoulder, or seeking her out the moment her academics began to slip, she became overwhelmed by the amount of work required for each class.

“Time management was the most difficult part,” Jammie reflected.  “I’d procrastinate, and I just didn’t get things done. And the biggest mistake I made – I stopped writing in my planner.  I wrote everything down in my planner at Central City, but here they don’t make you do that. It was all up to me.  So I had to really think about what skills I got at Central and how they could help me here.”

Jammie quickly learned the lesson.  She has three planners now, one for homework, one similar to those she kept at Central City to track each week’s work, and another for important dates and deadlines.  She color-coded her planners and created time graphs, and now has a better idea of how to spend her time. 

But she didn’t do it alone.  When she reached out, she found the university was teeming with resources.  Her RAs helped get her needed support.  She made good friends who helped advise her on the best professors and the most engaging classes. And Jammie has identified mentors who have helped her through the process.

“The freedom here is daunting and scary, because I had to be more independent and intentional in how I spend my time.  But it’s also the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.  I’ve met people who are amazing. I spend every day with people whose minds are open. I love these people, and I love being here, and it’s opened my eyes to all the exciting things in store for me!”

Check out Jammie’s blog to read more about her experience at UC Irvine.

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Downtown Value School Downtown Value School 
950 West Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Phone: (213) 748-8868
Fax: (213) 742-6684
Everest Value School Everest Value School
668 South Catalina St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone: (213) 487-7736
Fax: (213) 487-7745
Central City Value High School Central City Value High School
221 North Westmoreland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone: (213) 471-4686
Fax: (213) 385-5127
University Prep Value High School University Prep Value High School
1929 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Phone: (213) 382-1223