Ivy League-bound students from East LA plan on returning to better the community

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In East Los Angeles, high school seniors are getting ready for commencement this week.

"There are times when I hear gunshots at night," described Fatima Reyes, senior at Garfield High, about her community.

"At night, I hear the metal birds above in the sky," said Erick Lerena, senior at the magnet school at Roosevelt High.

"In our community gangs and not being able to get home past 10 p.m. because you were in danger," said Rocio Ibanez, senior at the magnet law school at Wilson High.

But, these three strangers have a lot in common. Their parents are working-class immigrants who migrated from Mexico.

"There were days when I was younger when she wouldn't eat to feed us or to buy our poster boards for art projects," said Reyes about her mother.

All three students belong to Title I schools, which the government states, they are most at risk of failing.

"Living paycheck to paycheck, that's kind of the norm here in our community," said Lerena.

"At one point in my childhood, my father was forced to return to Mexico for some time," said Reyes. "That left a deep impression on me at a young age."

But, they've persevered through all of the setbacks. They are among the top in their class, were accepted to Ivy Leagues and plan to return to better their community.

Ibanez is heading to Dartmouth College.

"Education has been such an integral part of my life," said Ibanez. "I want to come back and work on that in public policy."

Lerena is going to Brown University.

"I just want to make my parents proud," said Lerena. "A part of me wants to come back and teach here."

Reyes will attend Harvard University.

"I possibly want to go into law," said Reyes. "Because just living in East LA, it often I see a disparity."
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.