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Local Doctor Awards Laptops to Scholarship Winners

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Smiling scholarship winners strode through a crowd of cheering Emerson Elementary School classmates Monday to shake the outstretched hand of Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela and collect a new laptop computer for their winning essays about attending college.

Six Emerson students were presented with new personal laptop computers by Valenzuela, a longtime education champion who is awarding laptop computers to 18 Riverside students for their winning submissions to his 4th annual Technology Encouraging College Hopes (TECH) Scholarship program.

More than 600 students at three Riverside elementary schools wrote essays or submitted artwork about how they would change the world with a college education as part of this year’s scholarship program.

One student from each grade at each school was selected as a laptop winner.

“This program is excellent because it gets kids to start thinking about the future now and really put their minds to work,” noted Raquel Perez, whose son won a laptop, “As a first grader, I didn’t think he would know much about college, but I was surprised to see the ideas he already had about it.”

Another six laptops were presented to students at Longfellow Elementary School on Friday and the remaining six laptops will be presented at a similar schoolwide assembly with parents, teachers and hundreds of students at Patricia Beatty elementary school on May 11.

“These students have big dreams,” Dr. Valenzuela said.

“To see the world through their eyes and to read about their hopes and dreams for securing a higher education to make the world a better place really makes you feel good about the future.”

With this year’s program, Dr. Valenzuela will have given more than 90 laptop computers to Riverside students. More than 1,900 students have participated in the TECH Scholarship program since 2008.

Principal John McCombs at Emerson praised Dr. Valenzuela and his continuing commitment to the TECH program, which serves to reinforce the efforts by teachers to encourage students to pursue a college degree.

“Good things happen when members of the community step forward to support education.

Every year, our students look forward to Dr. Valenzuela’s program, which provides them with another forum to articulate and visualize their plans to go to college,” McCombs said.

Known as “Dr. V” to his friends and patients, Dr. Valenzuela created the TECH Scholarship after reading a 2005 report by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy. The report showed that fewer than 30% of 9th graders in the Inland Empire will attend college within four years. Vital technology skills also lag behind for students who do not have a computer at home.

A longtime advocate for education, Dr. Valenzuela also created the Colton Dream Project in 2007 as a motivational program for at-risk youth at Colton High School.

The program successfully guided 22 low income high school students beat the odds and graduate -- surpassing the graduation rates for students facing similar struggles.

As the son of working class parents in Chile, Dr. Valenzuela learned first-hand about determination and overcoming adversity to secure his dreams.

“Becoming a doctor and helping people every day is a blessing I never take for granted,” said Dr. Valenzuela, “I could never have achieved all I have if I did not pursue a college degree and did not have the support of my family and friends.”

Dr. Valenzuela overcame severe economic obstacles to achieve a successful medical career. He completed high school by age 15 and graduated from medical school by 22.

An Inland resident, today Dr. Valenzuela is an esteemed member of the region’s medical community.

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