He dreamed of an education, but couldn't afford it. Then, in a single day, his life changed.

Christian Ramirez is a community college graduate! On June 5, he crossed the stage at commencement ceremonies at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) to receive an Associate degree in Automotive Technology.

It’s an amazing story of perseverance.

In 2012, Christian was a new arrival to the US. After immigrating from El Salvador, he spent two years at Hollywood High School. Immigrant teenagers have limited time to learn English, study required material for high stakes tests, and catch up to native English speaking peers before graduation. But Christian persisted. He also became deeply involved at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, in Hollywood, where he volunteered at Mass and in the Confirmation program to educate area youth.

In 2014, after Christian graduated high school, parish elders recognized his leadership and the unique challenge he would face with limited English proficiency, cultural adaptation, and poverty. They encouraged him to apply for an Ascending Lights scholarship where he could receive holistic support to succeed in community college.

And the rest is history!

As an Ascending Lights scholar, Christian worked his way, class by class, through difficult degree requirements at ELAC. The dropout rate for students with limited English proficiency is twice that of those who speak English. Nevertheless, in four years, Christian completed more than 100 units of college credit, including six ESL (English as a Second Language) courses, and twelve Ascending Lights Leadership Trainings. This spring, 2018, he completed his final degree requirements. And, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, before a crowd of supportive family and friends, Christian Ramirez walked across the stage and received his diploma.

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“The college experience was very empowering. Ascending Lights helped me through school, to grow personally, and deepen my understanding of God. The program was like another church that was there for me.”

We’re proud of Christian! And we’re thrilled to partner with generous supporters and Blessed Sacrament Church in this important work. Because of you, Christian had the one-on-one mentoring, financial resources, and broad academic support necessary to succeed in community college. And, because of you, Blessed Sacrament has a trained and educated leader to volunteer in outreach programs that positively impact at-risk youth in Hollywood. 

“Kids around Blessed Sacrament have financial struggles and a fear of failure,” Christian says. “What if I work hard in school, but fail? What if I don’t make it?” Christian identifies with their anxieties. Starting out, he too worried about the obstacles associated with college. But, Ascending Lights was there to empower him. “As a college student, you need someone to talk you through sadness, disappointment, and other emotions,” Christian says. “There were times I wanted to quit, but my mentor always inspired me to keep moving. Looking back, I know I wouldn’t have graduated without Ascending Lights.”

When you support Ascending Lights, you become an important part of our students lives. Your generosity helps us achieve our mission to give deserving students the support they need to succeed in community college. Together, we’re providing urban churches with the trained and educated volunteer leaders to serve in the outreach ministries that work to end poverty and violence. Thank you!

Christian Ramirez (Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church) holds an Associate of Science in Automotive Technology from East Los Angeles College. In the future, he’ll seek additional training and specialization in Automotive Electrical systems.