County Breaks Ground On New Mental Health and Wellness Center

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LINCOLN HEIGHTS – Jessie Cho for years suffered from depression, abusing drugs until she finally got help at the Northeast Mental Health Center in Highland Park. She now hopes others will get the treatment they need when a new mental health center opens in Lincoln Heights.

“I wanted to die, I felt I was of no use,” she tearfully recalled last week during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new county facility scheduled to open in November 2018.

Cho credits the mental health counseling services and treatment she received for turning her life around. For the first time in a long time, she felt like she was not alone.

Inspired to pay it forward, Cho began volunteering at the mental health center and eventually trained to become a community health worker. She now helps guide others to the appropriate services for his or her situation.

“I learned to balance my work and give myself self-love and self care,” she said about her recovery.

A groundbreaking was held in Lincoln Heights last week for the future site of the Northeast Mental Health Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A groundbreaking was held in Lincoln Heights last week for the future site of the Northeast Mental Health Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The soon-to-be constructed 47,330 square-foot mixed-retail and medical office project will be located on the 3300 block of North Broadway, and will house the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Northeast Mental Health and Wellness Centers.

Outpatient services will include crisis resolution assistance and wellness treatment. Clients will also be able to receive medical services at the same location.

“This facility is something that is much-needed” in the area, said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis at the event. “This will bring county services to a community that desperately needs them.”

Located just east of Chinatown and south of Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights is a neighborhood in transition. Latinos are about 70 percent of the population, with Asians being the next largest group at about 36 percent and growing. The median household income is about $36,000 a year, lower than many other areas of the county.

Like many nearby areas, the number of homeless has been on the rise at the same time housing prices are trending upward as people with higher incomes priced out of nearby neighborhoods like Echo Park, Highland Park, and the Downtown Arts District look for more affordable homes.

The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health is the largest county-run mental health department in the country. On average, more than 250,000 county residents receive services every year, according to the department.

Although Lincoln Heights is also home to County USC Hospital and LAC-USC Medical Center and Health Sciences Campus, residents and mental health advocates in East and Northeast L.A. have long complained of a lack of mental services in the area.

Noting that deep cuts nationally to health care are on the horizon, Solis said it’s “important for a project like this to get done.”

The facility will be built on a lot that has been vacant for years, despite a one-time plan to build a banquet hall there. Local residents, citing its close proximity to Lincoln High School and other schools, objected to the banquet facility because liquor would be sold.

Arman Gabay, co-founder of the Charles Company – the project developer – was overcome with emotion last week as he told the story of how the idea to build the medical office building in Lincoln Heights finally took root.

The medical and mental health facility –which will include retail space on the ground level –is the first major development the area in years.

When the Rose Eye Medical Group moved from the location, it became an “eyesore,” Steven Kasten of Steven Kasten Reality told EGP.

The building was torn down and the lot has been vacant for over a decade, recalled Kasten, whose company owns and manages many properties in the area.

Kasten, former president of the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce, says he hopes the new development will be a catalyst for more quality development in the area.

“Most people didn’t want to invest in Lincoln Heights,” he told EGP Tuesday. But now “all the ingredients are right for development.”

The project is also expected to generate 180 jobs.

“This is a partnership between the community, stakeholders, City of Los Angeles and the County,” Gene Detchemendy of the Charles Company explained.

“It’s thinking outside the box,” agreed Solis who called the partnership a “village approach.”

Cho, who now works at the same center in Highland Park where she received treatment, attributes her speedy recovery to the services she received at the county-run mental health facility.

She expects the new Lincoln Heights center will provide the community with a nurturing place for mental health and recovery.

“They literally saved my life,” she said, as she stood at the future site of the mental health center where she will soon be helping others. “I feel I have come full circle.”


Six-Years Later, Familial DNA Used to Find Killer of Teen, Young Woman

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Nearly six years have passed since the rape and killings of a teenage girl and young woman in Lincoln Heights sparked fear that a serial killer could be on the loose.

Pleas to the public, offers of rewards for information leading to the killer led nowhere.

But police kept searching for the killer of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman, finally turning to a process called familial DNA testing to find their suspect.

Michelle Lozano were killed in 2011, prompting fears of a serial killer. (EGP photo archive)

Michelle Lozano was killed in 2011, prompting fears of a serial killer. (EGP photo archive)

On Wednesday, 32-year-old Geovanni Borjas was charged with capital murder. Police say they cracked the case by using a familial DNA test and secretly collecting the suspect’s spit from a sidewalk.

Borjas was arrested May 25 at his home in Torrance, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said. He was charged Tuesday with two counts each of murder and forcible rape, along with a single count of kidnapping.

The charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during commission of a rape and a kidnapping. The allegations make Borjas eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet decided if they will seek a death sentence.

Borjas pleaded not guilty, and is due back in court June 22, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for him to stand trial. He remains jailed without bail, His attorney argued he does not pose a flight risk, noting he works full-time and is a father.

Bree’Anna Guzman was killed in 2011, prompting fears of a serial killer. (EGP photo archive)

Bree’Anna Guzman was killed in 2011, prompting fears of a serial killer. (EGP photo archive)

Borjas is suspected of kidnapping and slaying Lozano in 2011; the teen’s body was found the day after Easter, about 11:40 p.m. April 25, 2011, dumped along the Golden State (5) Freeway near State Street in Boyle Heights. The coroner said she was strangled.

Police said the body had been wrapped in plastic bags, put in a plastic container and dumped over a masonry barrier along the freeway, and when the container hit the ground, it broke open.

The eldest of six siblings, Michelle had told her mother she was going to walk to the store. She was last seen near Lincoln High School.

Calling her a bright girl who got along with everyone, friends said they were shocked by her killing.

Bree’Anna went missing 9 months later, on the day after Christmas. The mother of two small children disappeared after telling family members that she was going to walk to the Rite Aid pharmacy at the corner of Pasadena Avenue and Avenue 26, a short distance from her home in Lincoln Heights.

When Bree’Anna didn’t return, her family contacted police. They held candlelight vigils and plastered the neighborhood with posters with Bree’Anna’s face.

Geovanni Borjas was arrested in connection to the deaths of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman.  (LAPD)

Geovanni Borjas was arrested in connection to the deaths of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman. (LAPD)

Her body was found about 9 a.m. Jan. 26, 2012, near the Riverside Drive onramp to the southbound Glendale (2) Freeway in the Silver Lake area. The body was partially clothed and apparently was dumped at the location, police said.

Beck said both victims had been sexually assaulted.

In 2012, hoping to allay rumors of a serial killer on the prowl, LAPD issued an alert saying they believed the two murders were “distinct” and not connected. EGP at the time reported that police said they were unable to corroborate rumors of “several men riding around in a white van kidnapping young women from the street.”

The Los Angeles City Council first approved $50,000 rewards in each of the cases in February 2012: renewing the rewards in subsequent years to no avail.

However, Beck said detectives were eventually able to connect the crimes, and once that was done, police requested permission from the state Attorney General’s Office to perform a familial DNA search.

“After the familial search a person was identified as a contributory match to the suspect,” Beck said.

“That individual was suspect’s father, who was arrested on a non-sexual-assault-type crime earlier in his life.”

After conducting further information into the father’s background, detectives “identified a family member who they thought possibly could be the suspect involved in these (crimes) and they collected a surreptitious DNA sample,” Beck said. “They did this by following the individual. During that following, he spit on the sidewalk. Detectives collected that and the DNA was a match. It was a match to both of these murders.”

Beck declined to elaborate on a possible motive for the killings or a link between Borjas and the victims.

Mayor Eric Garcetti hailed the detective work that led to the arrest, calling the victims “two innocent women who had their whole lives ahead of them.”

He said the families and friends of the victims “are finally within reach of some of the justice that they and this city deserve.”

According to Beck, the case marks only the second time police have relied on a familial DNA search, which can narrow the search for a suspect to a particular family and point detectives to suspects whose DNA is not yet in a database. Beck noted that Borjas’ DNA was not in any existing database prior to his arrest.

The only other case in which the LAPD used familial DNA was the Grim Sleeper serial-killer case, in which detectives used a discarded pizza crust to collect DNA linking the killings to Lonnie David Franklin Jr., who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2016.

At a police press conference Tuesday, Bree’Anna’s father. Richard Duran struggled to keep control of his emotions. His daughter did not know Borjas, Duran said in Spanish, breaking down in tears as he described his daughter as loving mother and sister, and thanked the LAPD for their efforts to bring her murderer to justice.

“I have to thank the LAPD,” he said. “… Now we know the person that hurt our family is behind bars.

“That gives me a lot of happiness. I have closure now.”


Information from City News Service used in this report.


Brush Fire Threatens Homes

May 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LINCOLN HEIGHTS  – A 6 1/2-acre brush fire briefly threatened some homes in the Lincoln Heights area Tuesday afternoon before crews got a handle on the flames.

The fire broke out for unknown reasons shortly before 1 p.m. in the 500 block of East Avenue 28 and burned uphill, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Air and ground crews had the fire out around 2 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

Massive Multi-Media Art Installation Opens Saturday in Lincoln Heights

March 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The massive multi-media, interactive “14th Factory” art installation opened Saturday in Lincoln Heights, in a transformed 150,000 square-foot industrial warehouse across from the Old City Jail and the Los Angeles River.

The installation is the work of Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birth, creator of the nonprofit 14th Factory Foundation that says it produces “art experiences that serve as vehicles for social change.”

People familiar with the area often refer to the property as the “MAGA Building,” a reference to the bright blue awning with MAGA logo over the entrance to the San Fernando Street side of the nearly 3-acre warehouse and office space located just south of Figueroa Street. The back of the property, and the entrance to the exhibition is on Avenue 19, across from the former Lincoln Heights Jail.

14th Factory

14th Factory

The site’s transformation, under way for months, strips bare its non-descript industrial character, replacing it with what curators call a “mystic universe” that “weaves together elements of popular culture — science fiction, punk music, graphic novels, and film — with critical re-examinations of social and historical narratives, especially interconnections between East and West,” which coincidently coincides with the property’ own history.

From its opening in 1910 until the early 1980s, the property was home to manufacturers of American sliced bread, then to an importer of Vietnamese and Chinese food products before being sold in 2016.

What do these airplane tails wings have to do with art? Find out at the '14th Factory' multi-media art installation opening March 11 in Lincoln Heights. EGP Photo by Gloria Alvarez

What do these airplane tails wings have to do with art? Find out at the ’14th Factory’ multi-media art installation opening March 11 in Lincoln Heights. EGP Photo by Gloria Alvarez

According to the 14th Factory website, visitors to the pop-up art installation – which runs through April 30 – will be taken on a journey through 14 interlinked spaces comprised of video, installation, sculpture, paintings and performance featuring works by sixteen interdisciplinary artists from China, Hong Kong, the U.S., United Kingdom and Canada.

The 14th Factory Pop-Up Space is at 440 N. Ave 19, L.A. (Lincoln Heights) 90031.Tickets range from $15 in advance to $18 at the door, unless you happen to live in the 90031 zip code, which means you can get it for free if you bring along a driver’s license for entry. Donate-What-You-Can at the door every Thursday and 3rd Sunday of the month, no online tickets available. March 11 open 10am-10pm; hours vary, closed Mondays. For more information, to buy tickets, visit


Candidates Discuss Northeast L.A. Issues

February 23, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The crowd at a city council candidate forum Monday in Lincoln Heights was a little more restrained than during a similar forum last week in Glassell Park, even though the candidates speaking and issues addressed were for the most part the same.

In Glassell Park, the First Council District Candidates’ Forum was often interrupted by loud heckling and shouts. On Monday, however, the forum organized by the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council and held in the auditorium at Sacred Heart High School was a little less raucous.

All five candidates vying for the council seat took part, including the incumbent, Gil Cedillo, and challengers Josef Bray-Ali, a community advocate; Giovany Hernandez, an education advocate; Jesse Rosas, a businessman; and write-in candidate Luca Barton, a graphic designer.

The City of L.A. ‘s Primary Election takes place March 7 and includes the races for mayor, city attorney, controller and several ballot measures, as well as an L.A County sponsored Measure H to raise the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for services for the homeless. If a single candidate does not win 50% plus one of the vote, a runoff will be held in June.

Council District 1 covers multiple Central and Northeast Los Angeles communities, including, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Chinatown, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park, Pico Union, University Park and a section of downtown.

The five candidates answered questions on issues ranging from the region’s housing shortage, traffic, public safety and the homelessness epidemic, with the focus being on the challenges those issues create for Lincoln Heights’ residents and businesses.

The format did not allow for a real debate, but instead limited each candidate to making short statements in response to questions posed by the moderator and later the public.

As the incumbent, Cedillo was often the prime target of criticism from the challengers, who each said the district needs new blood.

“We need new leadership in this district or we will continue to see failure,” said Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has for years dogged the councilman at events and on social media for his part in stopping dedicated bike lanes from being installed along a portion of Figueroa Street running from Highland Park to Cypress Park.

Cedillo defended his record throughout the night, pointing to his 20-year record of accomplishments in elected office and 15 years in the labor movement, noting his long list of endorsements resulting from that work.

“If you want to know what people are going to do in the future, look and see what they have done in the past,” Cedillo repeated several times throughout the night, pointing to 100’s of bills he’s authored that have been signed by three different governors.

“I have a record. It’s constant, consistent and it’s measurable.”

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bray-Ali attempted to paint a different picture of the councilman’s leadership and accountability.

He and the other candidates claimed Cedillo has not done enough to improve safety for pedestrian and cyclists using local streets, and accused him of simply not listening to the community.

“Time and time again we have had the door slammed in our face and been shut out of city office,” complained Bray-Ali, who has in the past used his Twitter account to blame the councilman’s failure to install bike lanes on Figueroa for nearly every pedestrian and auto accident on the street, and in surrounding areas.

Barton and Hernandez said more attention must be paid to traffic issues in Lincoln Heights, especially along North Broadway, the community’s main commercial area, and near area schools.

Hernandez proposed greater use of lighted-crosswalk markings to slow traffic, which Cedillo said are just some of the safety measures he’s implemented since taking office.

Rojas questioned why streets lights are not synchronized to better control the flow of traffic. “Everyone has a right to be safe,” he said.

The challengers said crime and the number of homeless people in Lincoln Heights has risen under Cedillo’s watch.

Bray-Ali accused the councilman and his staff of not “showing up” to reassure the community when a murder happens, or making sure police are on patrol.

Cedillo pointed out that L.A. has the fewest police officers per capita in the country, and that’s a problem, he said. He noted that he has the support of many of the city’s police and fire personnel.

Cedillo said he has long been an advocate for “fair share zoning” and that the burden of new homeless shelters and services should be spread across the city, and that’s why he stopped a plan to build homeless shelters on city-owned parking lots in Lincoln Heights.

“I’m fed up with the lies and hype,” responded Bray-Ali, claiming the councilman only took action after getting complaints from the community.

Bray-Ali said, if elected, he is committed to ensure homeless veterans have a place to shower, go to the bathroom and wash their clothes.

Cedillo responded by once again pointing to his record, reminding the audience that he helped create the city’s committee on homelessness.

Measure S, a ballot measure that if approved would place a 2-year moratorium on new developments, put the controversial issues of “gentrification” and rising housing costs in the forefront.

Rosas said large developments are not good for the community, claiming they often come at the expense of affordable housing.

“Affordable housing for who?” Rosas asked. “We don’t want people to get displaced.”

Bray-Ali, Cedillo and Hernandez all said they oppose the measure.

“I don’t think it’s the cure,” said Hernandez, a renter himself. This will mean, “halting the construction of much needed housing units,” he said.

“It’s an effort to stop change…it will take zoning in Los Angeles back to the 1950s,” said Cedillo.

Bray-Ali said with significantly more people than housing, development is needed, but blamed failed leadership for allowing developers to build without consulting with impacted communities.

“You think Measure S is going to stop them,” asked Barton. “If they can’t do new development they’ll take existing [buildings] and covert them to luxury units.”

Martha, 66, said she was a victim of just that, and blamed Cedillo for failing to help her.

Bray-Ali offered to connect her to a landlord willing to rent out to seniors being displaced from her building, garnering applause from the audience.

Hernandez pointed out the woman’s story proved “displacement is not an urban myth,” and the need for local officials to work with the state legislators to overturn the controversial Ellis Act. The 1985 Act has allowed landlords to legally evict their rent-controlled tenants if they sell or convert the building into condos.

Cedillo tried to offer reassurance that his office would help but was met with heckling from the audience, as he was much of the night and the previous forums.

“No change is going to happen in the already existing system,” argued Hernandez.

Hernandez, the youngest of the five candidates and self-proclaimed homegrown candidate, told the crowd election time is like a report card for the incumbent to find out if he or she has done a good job.

“I’m proud to give my community the option for something else,” said Hernandez.

Cedillo told the crowd they could heckle him all they want and even choose to vote for another candidate, but said he’s confident he will be reelected.

“This election is going go happen March 7 and we’re going to wake up on March 8 and I’m still going to be your council member,” he said. “We’ll see you at the election party.”


Car Chase Ends in Commerce

February 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A woman wanted for reckless driving struck two cars Monday during a chase before surrendering in Commerce.

The chase began about 10:15 p.m. in the Lincoln Heights area, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Mike Lopez.

It ended about 15 minutes later when the car driven by the suspect collided with another vehicle near the intersection of Telegraph Road and Garfield Avenue in Commerce.

The car driven by the woman also struck at least one other car during the chase, police said.

The woman was taken into custody and will likely be facing a felony failure to yield charge, Lopez said.

The people in the other vehicle involved in the crash only had complaints of pain, Lopez said.

Lincoln Heights Volunteer Recognized by L.A. Rams

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A longtime St. Vincent de Paul volunteer has been recognized by the Los Angeles Rams for her leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving Los Angeles.

Claire Padama received the Community Quarterback Award on the football field during the Nov. 6 Rams game against the Carolina Panthers.

(Left to right): Molly Higgins, Rams Vice President of Community Affairs and Engagement; Claire Padama, award recipient; David Fields, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles and a Helpful Honda Person during Ram’s Nov. 6 home game. (Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles )

(Left to right): Molly Higgins, Rams Vice President of Community Affairs and Engagement; Claire Padama, award recipient; David Fields, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles and a Helpful Honda Person during Ram’s Nov. 6 home game. (Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles )

Padama has served as president of the Board of Lincoln Heights-based St. Vincent de Paul for 6 years and volunteered with the non-profit for the last 20 years. Her efforts include assisting the charitable organization’s low-income and homeless clients get assistance with their housing and utility costs, the hot lunch program and furniture distribution center.

“There is so much to be done and we need as many helping hands as possible to help feed, clothe and shelter the needy in Los Angeles,” said Padama. “I will continue to work with St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles to collect donations, deliver food to the hungry and combat homelessness in our city.”

St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles also received a $5,000 check from the team to fight homelessness in Los Angeles. The donation will be used to purchase clothing, food and supplies.

Fire Breaks Out on 110 Freeway

October 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Firefighters quickly extinguished a small brushfire that ignited on both sides of the Pasadena (110) Freeway in Lincoln Heights and charred about a quarter of an acre of grass, authorities said.

The brush fire near Figueroa Street and San Fernando Road was reported at 1:35 p.m. Sunday, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said.

Firefighters quickly put out the fire, Scott said. No official knockdown time was available.

The California Highway patrol issued a SigAlert at 2:25 p.m. and temporarily shut down the number 2 and 3 lanes, as well as the San Fernando Road onramp on the 110 Freeway so firefighters could position their equipment.

The SigAlert was cancelled at 3:14 p.m., according to the CHP.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.


Police Shoot, Wound Man in Lincoln Heights

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A suspect was shot and wounded Wednesday afternoon by police near County-USC Medical Center and the university’s Health Sciences Campus in Lincoln Heights.

No officers were injured in the shooting, which happened about 3:30 p.m. in the area of Zonal Avenue and Cummings Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The suspect was taken to hospital. His age and condition were not immediately available, nor were details about what led to the shooting.

A report from the scene showed a crashed SUV outside a building bearing a USC banner.

An alert issued by USC in the shooting’s immediate aftermath advised students and others to avoid the area.

Just after 5 p.m., LAPD Officer Tony Im said there was no threat to the campus.

Explore How You Can Succeed in Biotech Future at Local Summit

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Biotech industry is not limited to some “crazy scientist locked up in a room or lab,” says Martha Escutia, vice president of government relations at the University of Southern California.

There is a wide range of career options and job opportunities in the field, and USC wants to inspire Latino parents and students to begin exploring them, says Escutia, a native of East Los Angeles and former state senator.

On Saturday, in partnership with the Los Angeles Community Colleges, USC is hosting “Preparing for the Biotech Decade.” a bilingual summit aimed at demystifying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and the Biotech/Bio-Med fields.

These fields offer good paying jobs in a lot of different areas, from lab technicians to marketing and communications, logistics and administrative positions, points out Escutia, noting that the USC Health Science Campus in Lincoln Heights is helping to fuel development of a strong bio-med corridor in L.A. County.

It’s important that Latino students and their parents in the city and county’s Eastside begin to think about these careers so they can start planning early, Escutia told EGP, adding that there will also be information available to adults looking to make a career change.

Student wears protective eye ware while conducting an experiment at Bravo Magnet High School. (Photo by Gus Ruelas/USC)

Student wears protective eye ware while conducting an experiment at Bravo Magnet High School. (Photo by Gus Ruelas/USC)

Saturday’s summit will be held at East LA College from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon and will include panel discussions and workshops with a variety of experts in the fields. There will also be a resource fair where people can get information on job openings, college requirements and programs, high school classes as well as re-training opportunities for adults. All of the events are free and open to the public and will be available in both English and Spanish.

If you ever dreamed of meeting a real life astronaut, this is your chance. Former astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC Ret. Carlos I. Noriega is one of two special guest speakers Saturday, the other is Dr. Dian Ramos, LA County’s Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine.

Noriega will discuss the road that led him to eventually logging more than 481 hours in space, including over 19 EVA hours in three spacewalks.

Ivan Alberto Trujillo-Priego is a PhD candidate attending USC and will be one of the panelists speaking Saturday. He told EGP he hopes his story inspires and motivates students to follow in his path.

“I don’t know why, but there is something that stops us as Latinos from getting into the science field, maybe because of the lack of resources or due to the lower incomes,” he said. “Biotechnology or science, for that matter, is not for an elite group, and not something alien. We do have the potential and the same capabilities that everyone else has to do it,” he said, referring to the lower number of Latinos in the field.

While he was born and raised in Mexico, in some ways Trujillo-Priego has benefited from the same opportunities available to his higher income non-Latino counterparts in the U.S. He comes from a family of engineers and attended private schools, and his interest in the sciences was encouraged from an early age.

Math was intuitive to him, he says, but adds he still had to work hard to qualify for the internship program at USC, which presented its own challenges due to his limited ability with the English language.

Yet, he was undeterred.

“People from Mexico are sometimes afraid to come to the US to study because we think we won’t be good enough. However, once I came here I realized that I was very well prepared and sometimes at a higher level than the other students born here,” he said.

Trujillo-Priego told EGP he wants to disprove the myths that Latinos are not cut out to be scientists. As an international student, who struggled with language barriers, he hopes to further his research on infant development, helping those suffering from motor disorders.

Even if students don’t have access to laboratories at home, as he did growing up, Trujillo-Priego says students have other resources available and he suggested they download apps – that are often free – on their smart phones, or check out videos online to strengthen their skills. He also encourages high school students or undecided undergrads to become research volunteers at collage laboratories like those at USC. Lastly, he urges families to attend the free community events in their neighborhoods to learn not only about opportunities in science but in other fields as well.

“[Parents], try to give information to your children, push them but don’t do it too much so they don’t feel obligated. Encourage them because sometimes you just need a little push to know what is possible,” Trujillo-Priego said.

It’s a view echoed in part by Escutia, who said parents’ shouldn’t be afraid that something may be too hard for their child. “We need to raise expectations,”” she said. “We can’t be afraid to encourage them to take the tougher path, to work hard, to take more challenging classes,” she told EGP, adding that parents’ need to understand that the work they put in today will pay off in the future.

“These are the jobs of the future, we have to be ready for them.”

To learn more about the summit, go online to


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