Jose Velazquez, a recent graduate of Ánimo Leadership, will be able to pursue higher education in Computer Sciences after being awarded the Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship, sponsored by the Los Angeles Rams and the Fulfillment Fund.
Velazquez was elated when the team reached out to him to let him know the news, which will help him attend El Camino Community College.
“I feel that it’s a great opportunity for me, being able to pursue my career in computer science,” said Velazquez. “I always liked computer science, like the programming. I’ve been interested since middle school, and I wanted to pursue this.”
The scholarship, in its inaugural year, is funded by the Rams and honors Washington, who broke the color barrier when he signed with the team in 1946 ending a 12-year ban on black players in the National Football League.
"We're really excited to create a pathway to help individuals further their education. We all want to make sure that nothing will prevent a student from being able to dream beyond their reality,” said Jonathan Franklin, director of Social Justice and Football Development for the Rams. “It takes all of us to really create change. Social justice is at the core of the Los Angeles Rams and it really is a social justice issue. It's about access and we're so grateful to be in the city of Los Angeles and make it beyond just football."
Over 300 students applied to be considered for the scholarship, according to Franklin. Applicants had to be enrolled in their senior year of high school and have a strong GPA. Priority was given to applicants who would be the first in their family to attend college, be enrolled in Fulfillment Fund’s programs through its partner high schools, and reside in Inglewood, Watts, Compton, South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles or Downtown Los Angeles.
Velazquez said he worked hard the last four years to graduate high school, even though he faced challenges due to the pandemic, which forced students to take courses online. Once he adapted to all the challenges, everything came out well.
“The beginning of high school was kind of hard. After the first semester and I got more organized, I was able to be more efficient and then the next year it was even easier. Then Covid hit. It was kind of hard getting used to going to Zoom,” added Velazquez.
The scholarship will pay for two years of community college and, should he decide to pursue a four-year degree, would provide additional funding to complete his education. Scholarship recipients will be provided with advisement and support from Fulfillment Fund. Winners were selected for their embodiment of Kenny Washington’s core values: perseverance in the face of adversity, dedication to their goals and the Los Angeles community, fortitude through breaking barriers, and inspiring others around them to make a difference.
According to Franklin, the scholarship will be awarded every four years to students to help them fulfill their college dreams. Students will receive full support from the Rams and the Fulfillment Fund, considered to be Los Angeles’ oldest and largest college access and college competition non-profit.
Velazquez is grateful for the Scholarship award and promised to work hard in his upcoming college experience. He added that his parents are proud of his achievements and happy that he would pursue higher education.
“They were extremely happy about it and proud,” said Velazquez.
Ánimo Leadership, opened in 2000, is the oldest Green Dot Public School in the Los Angeles area, preparing students for college, leadership and life.