East Side Spirit & Pride Club to Hold Scholarship Dinner

By Special to EGPNews

Award-winning author Luis Rodriguez will be the guest speaker and outgoing East Los Angeles College President Ernest Moreno will be honored at the East Side Spirit & Pride Scholarship Dinner.

The fifth annual event will be held June 16 at Steven’s Steakhouse in Commerce. Proceeds will benefit Homeboy Industries’ Bridge to College Grants and support university tours for ELAC students.

The East Side Spirit and Pride Club provides students from ELAC and Homeboy Industries with tours of local universities and four-year colleges.

“From Cal State Fullerton to UCLA and everything in between, the tours average 25 to 35 students every month,” said Dennis Sanchez, an English instructor at ELAC who started the program 20 years ago.

The program has grown so much that many former ELAC students who went on tours themselves are now helping lead the tours at the schools they transferred to.

“It really opens up the eyes of the students when they get to USC, for example, and they hear that the person helping with tour went to ELAC,” Sanchez said. “They in turn hope to do the same when they transfer.”

Sanchez says the college will miss Moreno, who is retiring after 20 years of leading the college as president.

He recalled how he and Moreno felt the college lacked pride, so they worked together to make the students, faculty and staff proud of the college by forming the East Side Spirit & Pride Club.

East Los Angeles College instructors, from left, Dennis Sanchez and Patty Godinez plan details with President Ernest Moreno for the upcoming East Side Spirit & Pride Scholarship Dinner June 16 at Steven’s Steakhouse. Photo by Mario Villegas

East Los Angeles College instructors, from left, Dennis Sanchez and Patty Godinez plan details with President Ernest Moreno for the upcoming East Side Spirit & Pride Scholarship Dinner June 16 at Steven’s Steakhouse. Photo by Mario Villegas

“We started a cleanup day, we worked to bring the football program back and started a marching band,” said Sanchez, a Montebello High School product who graduated from ELAC before transferring to USC. “It was a restoration of pride.”

Tours to universities were arranged and motivational speakers were invited to come and speak at the college to help the students who had stepped up to bring pride back to the college.

“The feeling that we were trying to transcend is that you have to have pride in your school,” Sanchez said.

He said there is more work to do and has welcomed the assistance and drive of fellow English instructor Patty Godinez.

“Patty is helping me get more structured and expand our efforts,” he said.

But he reiterated that the program will miss Moreno’s support.

“He has always really supported it,” Sanchez said. “We have one thing in common: We both love ELAC very much. ELAC students are very capable of being successful at the next level of college and the goal is get them there.”

Rodriguez, a volunteer at Homeboy Industries, is a versatile writer who is recognized as a major figure of contemporary Chicano literature. His best-known work, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for depictions of gang life. He also founded and co-founded several organizations, including Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural in the San Fernando Valley.

“He was very willing to come to the dinner and speak and we’re excited to have him,” Sanchez said.

For more information, call (818) 970-6651, or email, elac.essp@gmail.com.

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June 10, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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