MVLA Community Scholars aims to change lives

Photo By: Courtesy of James Apple
Photo Courtesy Of James Apple

James Apple, Los Altos High graduate and former MVLA Community Scholar, inspects a potential wind-farm site.

Mountain View Los Altos Community Scholars’ mission is to increase the odds that low-income students will graduate from college.

Historically, only 33 percent of low-income students entering college received diplomas. Community Scholars, however, has developed a plan to boost local graduation rates up to 70 percent on average.

Dee Gibson, chairwoman of Community Scholars’ board of directors, attributed the group’s success to one-on-one college mentoring and scholarships renewable each year until graduation.

Community Scholars works with low-income youth in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, typically the first in their families to attend college. Scholar volunteers said the students are bright – all they need is a fair chance.

One well-known alumnus of the program is Jose Antonio Vargas, a Mountain View High graduate who won a Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to the Washington Post’s coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

“Jose is currently our most famous graduate,” Gibson said. “(Community Scholars) supported him through his college degree.”

Vargas recently graced the cover of Time magazine, introducing his pro-immigration project Define American.

“Jose is busy changing the world for hundreds of thousands of undocumented persons living in America,” Gibson said. “But he is not the only gifted student we have helped – there are many others.”

Los Altos High graduate James Apple, a wind energy analyst at GL Garrad Hassan, a renewable-energy consulting firm, is another success story. As a teen, Apple wondered if he could afford to go to college. He came from a hardworking, low-income family and his parents worked multiple jobs. He worked part time to save for college, and in his senior year, Apple received a scholarship from MVLA Community Scholars.

Apple credits MVLA Community Scholars with offering the right mix of financial aid and mentoring to give him the stability he needed while working on his degree.

When he graduated from Humboldt State University with a 3.96 grade-point average, the university honored him with its Outstanding Student of the Year Award. Apple served as lead engineer on the winning Humboldt State team that captured a $75,000 technology design award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The team built a prototype device to reduce brownouts in village mini-grid systems in countries such as Bhutan and Thailand.

Apple earned a master’s degree from Stanford University.

Other MVLA Scholars include Kristine Carter, who works at the Center for Discovery and Adolescent Change in Menlo Park; Alayna Goins, residence director and student activities coordinator at Pitzer College; Peru native Miguel Ponce, who helped expand TogetherHealth, a health-care direct-response marketing company; and Igor Vainshtein, a graduate student who has been integral to the development of a diagnostic tool for rheumatoid arthritis.

“I would not be where I am today, in my MBA program, without their support,” Vainshtein said of MVLA Community Scholars.

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