Scholarships awarded to local 5th graders

LOS ANGELES Anselmo Ventura has been rehearsing for his graduation performance next Thursday at San Fernando High School.

His music teacher has a few final notes for Ventura, an honors student who'll be attending college this fall. He has planned for this day since he was 11 years old.

In 2003, Ventura was one of the eight 5th graders picked for the O'Melveny Scholastic Encouragement Award. He was promised $20,000 for college expenses.

Ventura posed for a picture with his parents that day, just like the newest 5th grade scholars are.

This is the 20th year that O'Melveny & Myers LLP has given scholarships to eight academically promising 5th graders at O'Melveny Elementary School.

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher is a senior partner in the law firm that has given more than a $1 million to the school's scholars since the program started.

"These scholarships recognize the talent these students have. It encourages them to stay in school and not drop out," said Christopher. "It also really increases their self-esteem. It gives them a great deal of self-confidence."

The $20,000 scholarships can cover college expenses and are meant as an incentive for economically disadvantaged students who get good grades.

"More than anything it is the introduction and the ability and opportunity to think of going to college," said Henry Vidrio, O'Melveny Elementary School.

For Ventura, that day is here. He'll attend Cal State Northridge this fall. He will be studying musical performance.

"Through the four years the scholarship has basically been pushing me towards academics," he said. "My parents pushed me a lot, but the scholarship is just back there."

The teen says his family is very proud of his achievements.

"In a couple of weeks I will be starting college and I will be the first one in my family," said Ventura.

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