Ednovate - USC Hybrid High College Prep’s third graduating class is stronger than ever. All 118 seniors are college-bound, with $3.2 million in confirmed grants and scholarships.
by Diane Krieger
There’s sibling rivalry … and then there’s crosstown sibling rivalry. Come September, Addison Arnold will be a Trojan while his twin, Anaya, will become a Bruin. But no “House Divided” flag will ever wave over the South-Central L.A. family home. The twins refuse to let school pride come between them.
“We’ll help each other out,” Anaya vowed.
“We’re getting the best of both worlds,” Addison agreed. “We’ll have
the connections from both campuses.”
The spirit of “positive multigenerational change”—the driving force behind Ednovate - USC Hybrid High College Prep —runs strong in the Arnold twins. They were among the 118 seniors to walk across the Bovard Auditorium stage in an emotional June 9 graduation ceremony.
Founded in 2012 by the USC Rossier School of Education, the fast- rising charter school graduated its third class on June 9. With $3.2 million in confirmed first-year grants and scholarships, all 118 seniors from the Class of 2018 are college-bound, matching the 100 percent graduation rate and college acceptance rate of the first two USC Hybrid High senior classes. Addison Arnold will study neuroscience at USC Dornsife College, and Anaya will pursue biology at UCLA. The twins received admission offers from both elite schools, but after touring the campuses, Anaya couldn’t see herself anywhere but UCLA, while Addison loved everything about USC. Between scholarships and financial aid, the twins will attend loan-free and graduate debt-free. Their mother, Delcia Samuels, wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions triggered by the ceremony.
“This is unbelievable,” she said, as she watched Anaya and Addison pose for pictures with family members. “I can’t even explain the feelings that came over me. I did not think this day would come at all.” The twins, she explained, had been born very premature. At 26 weeks gestational age, their birth weights were 1 pound and 1 1/ 2 pound. They spent their first three months of life in a neonatal unit, and it wasn’t a sure-thing that they would survive, let alone grow into healthy, accomplished honors students. Their helplessness at birth prompted Samuels to go back to school and become a pediatric nurse. Her oldest son, Paul, 21, is also studying to be a nurse at Cal Poly Pomona. Both Anaya and Addison hope to be physicians someday.
As the Hybrid High seniors filed into Bovard in their burgundy caps and gowns, ecstatic cheers and whistles drowned out Elgar’s stately “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Arianna Brown kicked off the program with a soulful rendition of the national anthem. An honors student, Brown is headed for Vassar College in the fall.
Anaya Arnold sat on the stage with the other dignitaries —Principal Mide Macaulay, Ednovate co-founder Oliver Sicat, and featured speakers Maria Ott from the USC Rossier faculty and Hybrid High math teacher Kristophe Malone.
Not only had Anaya’s 4.2 GPA placed her among Hybrid High’s top-ten graduates, but she’d also been nominated student speaker by her classmates.
“There will be times when each of us thinks he or she is alone—our backs against a wall. But we are not alone,” Anaya reassured her classmates in her remarks.
Valedictorian Aléjandra Ruelas spoke passionately about her family. Mom had left school after sixth grade in Mexico, and dad had dropped out of high school to work. “I’m often reminded of my privilege in having access to a better education,” Ruelas said. “This is why I am up on this podium.” She has held the top GPA in her class for four straight years. With 12 college acceptances and $116,577 in total first-year grants and scholarships, Ruelas chose to attend UC Berkeley in the fall.
During the diploma ceremony, teacher and advisory group leader Rachel Matthews had trouble getting through her speech, swiping at tears and choked by emotion. “The 22 of you are the brightest part of my life,” she told the young men she’d advised for the past four years.
One by one, they wrapped her in bear hugs when they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. As their faces flashed on the overhead screen, an announcer read brief messages each senior had penned for the occasion.
“Thank you to Ms. Matthews for being my second-mom,” Juan Miranda- Lopez had written.
Mary Salazar emceed the night’s sometimes bi-lingual program. Holding the No. 2 spot in her class, she had the honor of serving as salutatorian.
“I was very nervous,” she admitted afterwards. “I kept thinking I was going to mess up or trip. But in the end, everything went well.”
Eyes gleaming, a jubilant Salazar clasped her bouquet of red roses and handsome diploma as family members huddled for photos. The child of Salvadoran immigrants, Salazar was active in many community service organizations throughout high school. She received five college admission offers and $81,978 in total grants and scholarships toward freshman year. The Silver Lake resident has chosen to study psychology at Cal State Northridge, having fallen in love with the program during a campus visit.
As the celebration wound down, Salazar and her family were heading out to feast on pupusas.
For Dinajreeah Morrah, reality hadn’t quite sunk in.
“I still can’t believe it,” the South-Central resident said, laughing. “It feels like I’m going to have to go to high school next year.” One of the Class of 2018’s top ten, she turned down NYU to become a Bruin. “UCLA was just calling my name,” said Morrah, who’ll double major in psychology and linguistic.
Other top-ten students include Jennifer Gonon, also heading to UCLA; Chakaya Smith, who opted for NYU; Wendy Miranda Bolanos and Sonia Miranda Requena, who will attend UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine, respectively; and Elizabeth Cruz, who is bound for USC.
Together with Jonathan Richards and Addison Arnold, Cruz brings USC’s total Hybrid High alumni population to 14. (These three new Trojans join seven rising sophomores and four rising juniors from previous years.) Cruz will major in biological sciences, and Richards will study business administration.
According to director of college counseling Takirah Crenshaw, two- thirds of the Class of 2018 have chosen California public universities, and one-fifth will go to California community colleges. While all 118 Hybrid High grads were admitted to four-year colleges this year, 25 have opted to begin their undergraduate studies at a two-year institution. Fifteen others will go to private universities, including Vassar, NYU, Loyola Marymount, Tuskegee College and, of course, USC.
“It gets better and better every year—and not just academically,” Sicat said, in an interview after the ceremony. “I see deeper relationships between our students and staff. I see a deeper purpose and passion for making this world a better place. But the best part is seeing the kids tear up when they give their advisors a hug.”
Ednovate is a charter management organization partnering with the University of Southern California (USC) since 2012. Ednvoate operates 5 high schools in the Southern California area and USC Rossier is conducting research with the college bound alumni.
A previous version of this article appeared on June 19, 2018.