Paying it forward
Marvin Lopez is paying it forward with his Sequoia Gateway non-profit scholastic-based soccer program. The program is designed to assist Tulare County youth with getting into college and prep schools.
“I am just paying it forward,” said Lopez. “I had a lot of people supporting me, so now I support others.”
The program also introduces the students to recruiters such as Jim Bursten from North-Field Mt. Herman Prep school in western Massachusetts. Bursten paid a visit to Tulare County to meet local prospects and follow up with others.
Bursten was looking for students who may want to submit an application to attend their senior year of high school on the east coast.
“I am here to let the families know that Mt. Herman is an amazing school,” Bursten said. “We have about 600 kids and 99% of our students go on to four year colleges.”
Bursten knows it may be hard for parents to let their children travel across the country to attend their last year of high school.
“Families here are so close and they want what is best for their children,” he said. “I am here to let them know that this is an opportunity for their child to have the type of education that will prepare them for college. We have an average of 15 students per class and offer college level classes.”
The scholarships offered are financial needs based and the students will live in dorms with other students from around the world.
“They may be in a room with someone from Russia or Africa,” said Bursten. “They will be exposed to different cultures and religions and making them more aware of the global community.”
Lopez added, “They will also be exposed to different educational opportunities that will make them better students and individuals.”
Lopez said, “I have to make sure the parents understand what an opportunity this is for their kids. I come from a similar background and me sharing my experiences makes a connection. Our mission at Sequoia Gateway is to give the students as many opportunities possible. Academics come first, applicants must have a 3.0 GPA or higher and be able to attend Sequoia Gateway activities so we can keep track of what’s going on with them in high school.”
Lindsay resident Diego Medina attended Mt. Herman and then went on to Boston College. As a freshman he was the male freshman student athlete of the year.
Jonathan Gonzalez is currently attending prep school on the east coast and plans on becoming a teacher.
“I heard what Marvin went through and he helped me,” said Gonzalez. “I plan on finishing my education and doing the same thing and giving back to my community.”
Noel Mendoza, who is now a substitute teacher said perusing a higher education without the program would have been difficult.
“College was not a high priority,” said Mendoza. “I wasn’t well informed, but Marvin helped me and provided information that I benefitted from. I would suggest that anyone that can should take advantage of this program.”
Robert Gonzalez, who is currently coaching soccer, attended school on the east coast and then played one year of professional soccer in Guatemala.
“I did not even know how I could attend college,” said Robert Gonzalez, “Until Marvin helped me.”
Sequoia Gateway coach Pedro Gonzalez summed up the program.
“We are here to get to know the boys and their families,” said Pedro. “By knowing their background we can help them with their futures.”