Priscilla Velez: 2017 AARP Andrus Opportunity Award Winner

This year's winner is the founder of Lincoln High's first Environmental Club with a number of passionate members

By Anaí Ibarra
Published on LatinoLA: June 14, 2017

Priscilla Velez: 2017 AARP Andrus Opportunity Award Winner

On Thursday, June 8th, 2017, Abraham Lincoln High School graduate, Priscilla Velez, was selected as the recipient of this year's Andrus Opportunity Award along with $5,000 to help her pay for her education. The award is named after AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, who served as principal of Lincoln High from 1916 to 1944.

At the end of the summer of 2013, at a gala event marking the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln High School, AARP officially announced the funding of the Andrus Opportunity Award, a scholarship that would be awarded to a college-bound Lincoln High student each year for ten years. AARP pledged $50,000 to support the scholarship fund, and this year's recipient is the fourth student to receive this award.

To be considered for the award, graduating seniors must submit an essay and meet specific criteria. After the essays are independently reviewed and scored by the Essay Committee, one student is selected.

This year's winner, Priscilla Velez, is the founder of Lincoln High's first Environmental Club, which has already attracted a number of passionate and dedicated members. Club members advocated for Measure A, a Los Angeles County initiative on the November 2016 ballot designed to provide safe, clean neighborhood parks and beaches. Members also participated in voter-registration events during the 2016 presidential election season. From this experience, Priscilla learned the truth of Dr. Andrus's words: "[T]here is nothing stronger and nothing more impactful than the collected efforts o f a few who want to truly change the world."

AARP has a unique and powerful connection to the Lincoln High: The founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, served as principal from 1916 to 1944 when it was known as East Los Angeles High School. Located in a transitional immigrant community, the school served a diverse, multicultural population. Dr. Andrus decided to rename the school after Abraham Lincoln to remind students of a man who overcame humble beginnings to become president. She established service programs and school activities to foster leadership and community. Perhaps most presciently, she added a wrought iron gateway into the school, with one-word arching above: "Opportunity."

The Andrus Opportunity Award was presented by Adriana Mendoza, AARP California's Associate State Director Community who told the crowd of graduates and their families, "Dr. Andrus retired from this amazing school 73 years ago, and today we honor a Lincoln High scholar in her memory. Dr. Andrus was a woman who, although warm and caring, was also an activist and organizer who got things done and inspired others to do more – especially her beloved students here at Lincoln High. She firmly believed in the selfless act of giving and caring for those in need, providing an inspiring example for all future Lincoln High graduates."

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