Leadership Academy grads overcame obstacles to excel

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Pictured is Iris Lin Chow holding a certificate awarded to her at the Youth Center Leadership Academy graduation. Courtesy photo

Life is challenging enough even when things are going well, but when three Youth Center Leadership Academy graduates from Los Alamitos High School (LAHS) faced obstacles, they ultimately excelled in their young lives.

For Ryan Bacher, age 16, of Rossmoor it was health problems. For Iris Lin Chow, age 16, of Seal Beach it was a learning disability, and for Jared Martinez, age 17, of Los Alamitos it was being challenged because he is Hispanic and doesn’t come from wealth. Each of the kids bravely dealt with what life gave them and went on to succeed in school and life.

Getting beyond his gastrointestinal disease, Bacher went onward as a student athlete and making the Honor Roll at LAHS and volunteers at Casa Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos. Chow overcame Dyslexia, no longer having it and went on to perform ballet in Swan Lake in China. Martinez maintains high grades and also made the Honor Roll at LAHS. All are formulating their big dreams for the future, and the Leadership Academy helped them to take one more step in reaching their goals.

Simply wanting to be a success, Bacher learned much more about having great job interview skills at the Academy. Chow who studies ballet five days a week, hopes to someday go into some aspect in the science field, and especially liked the cooking, finance and job interview workshops. Martinez is now taking classes at Cypress College, aspires to earn his doctorate degree at Cal Tech or UC Davis, and got a lot out of cooking, finance and auto maintenance. Each of the students also passed along what they learned at the Leadership Academy to their parents.

“I learned how to complete an [employment] application,” Bacher said. According to him, his parents think he’s better equipped with life skills after taking the Leadership Academy course. Chow’s parents also thought she would be more prepared for life beyond high school, and Martinez’s parents thought the Academy was a great course for him as well.

All three students graduated this summer from The Youth Center’s Leadership Academy. The Academy is held each summer and has workshops on goal setting, self-acceptance, managing finances and credit, healthy eating and cooking on a budget, automotive maintenance and car insurance. The students also gained valuable job skills with the Youth Employment Services (YES) instructors and volunteers from the Hyatt Corporation who conducted mock job interviews.

The Youth Center’s Leadership Academy prepares teens for life beyond high school, whether they are planning on attending college , entering the workforce, or both. A total of 31 students from various high schools attended the Academy this year. A total of nine experienced instructors hand selected from the community taught the four day course, which culminated in a graduation dinner prepared by the students for their family and friends. Students were acknowledged by local government officials and high school principals for their accomplishment. Upon graduation, mentors are offered to all students. For more information about The Youth Center’s Leadership Academy, please visit online at www.theyouthcenter.org.