OC Register, "She went from gang area to D.C"

The Nicholas Academic Centers held their third annual Thanksgiving dinner celebration Nov. 23 at Valley High School for more than 200 students, NAC staff and community leaders. NAC co-founders Judge Jack Mandel and Dr. Henry Nicholas were joined by Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido in congratulating students on their academic success, while challenging them to succeed in college and become leaders in their chosen careers. Among the speakers was Ana Rodriguez, a NAC alumna and freshmen at Georgetown University, who told the audience that, “The NAC prepared me for leadership and today I stand as a leader. I’ve become an example of the fruits that can be borne from a city like Santa Ana.” Also sharing her experiences was Marylinda Bustamante, who attends Valley High School.  “Since I don’t have Internet access at home or even a computer, it’s really hard to get my work done,” she said. “But I know I can really count on the NAC. I know I couldn’t have been a straight A student last year without the NAC.”

Below is a Q&A that Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit conducted with Rodriguez as she enjoyed her turkey dinner. - HTN Foundation

She went from gang area to D.C


Ana Rodriguez, left, talks to Rocio Chavez-Bonilla, director of social services for the Nicholas Academic Centers in Santa Ana during the annual Thanksgiving party Henry Nicholas hosts for the students and center alumni. After spending her childhood in a gang area of Santa Ana, Rodriquez graduated from high school last year and is now at Georgetown University. She credits the SAT prep she did at the afterschool center with helping her get into college. FRANK MICKADEIT, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In what appears to have become a Thanksgiving tradition for me, I spent the evening before at the little soiree Henry Nicholas hosts for the kids and staff at the academic tutoring centers he funds in Santa Ana. About 150 Nicholas Academic Center students have gone on to college in the last three years.

This party is a time for some of those who've gone off to college to come back and inspire the kids who are still putting in the hours at the tutoring centers. One alum back in town over the weekend was Ana Rodriguez. She grew up on Chestnut Avenue in Santa Ana, the oldest of three. Her father is a roofer and her mother is a housekeeper. Ana graduated from Godinez High School last year and is now at Georgetown. As she ate a plate of turkey and fixings, I got her to do a Q&A.

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