graduation

Celebrating Our Graduating Scholars: Zaphire Alonso Duarte!

"The Words Alive program has been my support system personally and academically. I am extremely thankful for all the people who are part of the staff.." -- Zaphire Alonso Duarte, Words Alive Westreich Scholar

A picture of Zaphire at her graduation from San Diego City College.

A picture of Zaphire at her graduation from San Diego City College.

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

In the past month, we have seen three of our scholarship students, Domminiece Willis, Zaphire Alonso Duarte, and Lexi Martinez, graduate from community college with associate's degrees. All three students graduated on May 25, 2018, Domminiece from Southwestern College and Zaphire and Lexi from City College.

Words Alive is thrilled to have been a part of the journey towards success for all of these wonderful students. We are so proud of all of them; they embody what it means to persevere and thrive.

We interviewed Zaphire Alonso Duarte to learn more about her college experience and her experience with the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program.

Read on:

A picture of Zaphire with her mentor, Tammy Greenwood, at Zaphire's graduation from San Diego City College.

A picture of Zaphire with her mentor, Tammy Greenwood, at Zaphire's graduation from San Diego City College.

Name: Zaphire Alonso Duarte

Age: 22

College: San Diego City College (will be attending San Diego State University in Fall 2018)

Degree (with area of study): Social Work

High School: Monarch School

Mentor: Tammy Greenwood

1. When were you first introduced to Words Alive?

I started being involved in Words Alive Adolescent Book Group during high school, since I was in 11th grade. I learned a lot of different books, and that opened me up to read more books. After high school in 2014, Words Alive has been my support system.

2. How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

Words Alive has helped me more than just financially. The Words Alive program has been my support system personally and academically. I am extremely thankful for all the people who are part of the staff, they are the best in always being on top of our things.

3. What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

I have graduated from San Diego City College after four years, and will be transferring to San Diego State University.

4. Tell us about your favorite college memory.

My favorite college memory was being able to have great moments with my classmates, for example take time out of class to go to the beach or to the movies.

Celebrating Our Graduating Scholars: Domminiece Willis!

"Words Alive has been such a huge stepping stone into both my transition into college and adulthood. I have picked up on so many educational, social and life skills throughout my time with Words Alive." -- Domminiece Willis, Words Alive Westreich Scholar

An image of Domminiece at her graduation. She's holding her Southwestern College degree up to the camera and smiling, and she's wearing a Words Alive Westreich Scholar stole!

An image of Domminiece at her graduation. She's holding her Southwestern College degree up to the camera and smiling, and she's wearing a Words Alive Westreich Scholar stole!

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

In the past month, we have seen three of our scholarship students, Domminiece Willis, Zaphire Alonso Duarte, and Lexi Martinez, graduate from community college with associate's degrees. All three students graduated on May 25, 2018, Domminiece from Southwestern College and Zaphire and Lexi from City College.

Words Alive is thrilled to have been a part of the journey towards success for all of these wonderful students. We are so proud of all of them; they embody what it means to persevere and thrive.

We interviewed Domminiece Willis to learn more about her college experience and her experience with the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program.

Read on:

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, and Domminice Willis at the graduation!

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, and Domminice Willis at the graduation!

Name: Domminiece Willis

Age: 26

College: Southwestern College

Degree (with area of study): Associates in Art: Child Development

Mentor: Karen Ladner


1. When were you first introduced to Words Alive? How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

I was first introduced to Words Alive through the monthly book groups held at Monarch School in 2010. Words Alive has been such a huge stepping stone into both my transition into college and adulthood. I have picked up on so many educational, social and life skills throughout my time with Words Alive.

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in earning your degree?
The biggest challenge that I faced in earning my degree was struggling with self-doubt, overwhelming course loads and comparing my progress with others. I found myself constantly belittling myself or disregarding any minor achievements or progress that I had made because in my point of view I was ”behind” everyone else and that began to take a toll heavily on my grades and my motivation to finish college.

3. How did you overcome that challenge?
With the help of my family, mentor, and another Words Alive staff member, I dropped my course load in half. I took a break from the scholarship and I focused more on celebrating my achievements, big or small, and understanding that my educational journey is not like everyone else’s and that I will move at my own pace and in my own way, but I will make it to the finish line. Regardless.

4. What is your favorite book that you read during your college years? Why?
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I remember reading this book and having to pause saying, “This is ME, this book is about me.” There were so many similarities between me and the characters of this book. The struggles of stability, financial issues, schooling and self-discovery throughout this book spoke to me and gave me such a positive outlook on life because it was so refreshing to see how everything worked out for her in the end.

5. What are your future plans now that you have earned your associate degree?
Now that I have my associate degree in Child Development it's off to San Diego State University in the fall to earn my bachelor’s in child development, so I can become a Child Life Specialist. Can't stop now! The future children depend on me!

6. What advice do you have for the next generation?

Keep going, stay positive and always surround yourself with a strong support system! It's going to be hard and you'll come across many obstacles in your life. You'll get a few bruises here and there and it's okay to sit and cry over them as long as you get up to grab a band-aid and push through.

Learn more about our Teen Services program here: http://www.wordsalive.org/teenservices/

Words Alive Celebrates the Graduation of Westreich Scholarship Students

“Words Alive has demonstrated that there are people who care for others without expecting something in return. They have been so loving to me, and my experience at UCSC wouldn't have been the same without them.” 

– Brittany Jackson, Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Student

From left to right: Words Alive Operations Directior Chrissy Green Califf, Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Student Brittany Jackson, and Words Alive Volunteer Mentor Sarah Archibald. Chrissy and Sarah made the journey up to UC Santa Cruz for Brittany's graduation! 

From left to right: Words Alive Operations Directior Chrissy Green Califf, Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Student Brittany Jackson, and Words Alive Volunteer Mentor Sarah Archibald. Chrissy and Sarah made the journey up to UC Santa Cruz for Brittany's graduation! 

The Words Alive Teen Services Program attempts to engage students from Momentum Learning (formerly Juvenile Court and Community Schools) in literacy, reading and education in a variety of ways: through a monthly book club, writing and career readiness workshops and a scholarship program.

In 2007, San Diego philanthropist Ruth Westreich created the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program, with the first scholarships awarded the following year. The program awards scholarships to Words Alive Adolescent Book Group participants to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Ten years later, the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program is going stronger than ever.  In the past month, we have seen two of our scholarship students, Cathy Campos and Brittany Jackson, graduate with bachelor’s degrees. Words Alive met both Cathy and Brittany in our Adolescent Book Group at Monarch , a school that educates homeless youth in San Diego.

Cathy Campos has been a Words Alive Scholarship recipient for four years, graduated from San Diego State University last month and benefited from the mentorship of Susannah Walker throughout her time with the Westreich Scholarship Program. Brittany Jackson has been a Words Alive Scholarship recipient for five years, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz last week, and benefited from a close relationship with her mentor, Sarah Archibald.

Words Alive is thrilled to have been a part of the journey towards success for both of these wonderful students. We are so proud of Cathy and Brittany; they both embody what it means to persevere and thrive.

We interviewed Brittany Jackson to learn more about her college experience and her experience with the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program. Read on:

Name: Brittany Jackson
Age: 23
College: University of California, Santa Cruz
Area of study: Sociology with a Chemistry background
Mentor: Sarah Archibald ❤

When were you first introduced to Words Alive? How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

I was first introduced to Sarah when she was a volunteer for Words Alive at Monarch School. After I received confirmation as a recipient of the scholarship, then Sarah was assigned to me. I am so happy she was my mentor! She is very supportive and understanding of all the obstacles I encountered while I was in school. I am so grateful for her. My experience with Words Alive has affected me by showing the support that I lacked at home, both emotional and financial. Words Alive has demonstrated that there are people who care for others without expecting something in return. They have been so loving to me, and my experience at UCSC wouldn't have been the same without them.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in earning your degree? 

The biggest challenge that I faced earning my degree was depression. There were mornings where I didn't want to wake up or [wanted to] call it quits but I kept pushing forward.

How did you overcome that challenge? 

I overcame these challenges with the support of family and friends that were very close to me, including Words Alive. I also kept saying the quote from Finding Nemo in my head, "Just keep swimming!"

What is your favorite book that you read during your college years? Why? 

My favorite book was called, "The Emotional Self" by Deborah Lupton. This book helped me understand my emotions and take better control of them, rather than [letting] my emotions have control over me. 

What are your future plans now that you have earned your college degree?

I plan to apply for my Masters in the fall to achieve my credentials to become a High School Counselor. I want to help other students understand the importance of education and everything that it has to offer (besides job security). 

What advice do you have for the next generation?

The advice that I have for the next generation is to never stop trying. If you fail a class once, twice, keep trying. If your midterm score wasn't what you expected, keep trying. Never give up! Just because you didn't pass a class or didn't excel on a test, that doesn't mean you didn't learn anything. Keep trying and figure out what to do better next time or ask for help. But the true value is not your letter grade or score but it's in your education. You may have not learned everything about the class, but you knew more than you did before you walked in there.