Middle Schoolers Enjoy Annual Engineering Competition

The Middle School Program has a long-standing partnership with San Diego State University’s Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers to provide a six-day series. This year, the students learned about the multitude of opportunities on the SDSU campus for students who study engineering, including undergraduate research, community service, and leadership. The BLCI students were then challenged to design and build a popsicle stick bridge capable of withstanding a weight and stress test.

We are proud to share our accomplishments of this week as SDSU SHPE volunteers assisted our students! Four of the five bridges were unbreakable in their final test on the SDSU Campus, hosted by the School of Engineering and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Theresa Garcia.

The Middle School Program is thrilled to offer our thanks to the incredible efforts put forth by the dedicated SDSU SHPE volunteers, staff support by Theresa Garcia, and our sponsors, SDG&E. We could not offer such a valuable program to our students without you!

Thank you all for another successful year!

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Middle School Program participates in Oral History Project

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The first few weeks of July, the middle school students were invited to work in collaboration of the San Diego History Center and helped conduct a Youth Oral History Project based by interviewing members in the community. The students first began the project by attending workshops that allowed them to learn the importance of oral histories and the mechanics behind holding interviews. The students came up with their own questions, picking the location of the interviews, and choosing the interviewees. It was an exciting opportunity for the students to further understand the history behind Barrio Logan and the impact this neighborhood has made on the community members around BLCI.

Finally, the students were able to visit the San Diego History Center archives and see the early maps of San Diego, photographs of Barrio Logan in the 1950s, and read accounts of people who have lived in our community through the decades. We would like to thank Isidro Salas for sharing his story with us and making this enriching learning experience possible. We would also like to thank the History Center staff, Marianne Petersen and Tina Zarpour, and the Archive staff, Chris Travers and Jane Kenealy for sharing their work and program with us. It is great seeing our students take interest in projects such as this and engage with the community outside of BLCI. We look forward to working with you again in the near future!

Middle School Students learn about the San Diego River

This week, the Middle School Program had a great chance to partner with the San Diego River Park Foundation for three amazing days of research and environmental science with our own San Diego River. We followed the river, beginning at Peutz Creek Preserve in Alpine where we helped water the native plants on the first day. We moved down to Mission Valley Preserve for a day of scientific theory and discussing native and invasive plants and the lasting effects. We also learned about river bugs and how they can indicate the health of the river. On the last day, we all finished our journey at the Ocean Beach estuary where we left our mark by pulling out limonium, an invasive plant that threatens the native ecosystem. We all had a great time learning about our community and the impact we have, and getting our hands dirty to help and investigate.

To Mr. Bob, Ms. Sabrina, Ms. Sara, Doc, and Mr. Richard from the San Diego River Park Foundation, thank you! We are proud to be the first group to consecutively complete the 3-day program! We cannot wait to come back for more student volunteer opportunities.

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The Class of 2015 is going to college!

Class of 2015

We are excited to announce that our BLCI Class of 2015 is off to college! After a long process of applications, exams, and financial aid, they are all excited to move forward with their college dreams!

College attendance for Fall 2015:

  • Israel Cedillo – UCLA
  • Alejandra Cisneros – San Diego City College
  • Alexis Diaz – San Diego State University
  • Guillermo Garcia – UC San Diego
  • Maritza Gardea – San Diego City College
  • Kimberly Loza – University of San Diego
  • Francisco Martinez – San Diego State University
  • Yolotzin Morales – UC Merced
  • William Ortiz – Pitzer College
  • Carly Ramirez – CSU Los Angeles
  • Sarabi Rodriguez – UC Berkeley
  • Omar Sanchez – San Diego State University
  • Jasmine Smith – CSU Channel Islands
  • Victor Vazquez – San Diego City College

Please join the BLCI family in celebrating another year of success! Congratulations to the class of 2015 for their great accomplishments!

Biotech in the Barrio

The Middle School Program jump started this year with a January full of experiments! The students first met with PhD students from UCSD studying biomedical sciences. They heard testimonials about their college and career paths and were able to ask questions about their lives, jobs, and research they were conducting. The students learned about the connections between choosing a college major, post-secondary study and the links to the job market.

Many, many thanks to Jackie Ward, Laura Shaw, Anna Wakeland, Leilani Cruz, Colleen Stoyas and Julia Nussbacher for coming to BLCI to meet our students. We hope to see you again soon and wish you the best in your work.

During the second half of the month, we conducted two experiments where the students learned about DNA. The first was a DNA extraction of wheat germ so the students could discover the color of DNA. The second experiment was a Gel Electrophoresis lab, also known as DNA fingerprinting. We substituted food coloring for DNA, but the students learned about the science and process behind running gels and using pipettes.

We would like to extend our thanks to The Salk Institute for the possibility of using science lab equipment to conduct these experiments. In particular we would like to thank Dona Mapston, the Salk Education Specialist, for her efforts in making Biotech accessible to students across San Diego.

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7th Graders Benefit from SD Museum of Art Partnership!

We would like to thank the San Diego Museum of Art, and specifically Pam Calore, for joining us at BLCI for several weeks to work on a variety of art projects with our seventh graders. The students learned a variety of techniques and were able to take their masterpieces home. Some of the projects included: painting calaveras, painting boxes, self portraits, print-making and plaster masks. We had so much fun!

BLCI’s 5th College Night



Last month, we held our 5th College Night at BLCI! Students from 3rd grade to 12th grade particpated in the college fair each preparing their own set of questions for the college representatives. College Night is meant to expose even our youngest students a wide range of colleges and universities in the US. This year’s colleges included:

  • Boston University
  • Carleton College
  • Duke University
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • University of Chicago
  • University of San Diego
  • Woodbury University

We’d like to give a big thank you to our college represenatives and alumni! Thank you for spending time with our students and sharing your enthusiam for college!

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Engineering the Barrio 2014

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Throughout the week of October 27 to November 1, the BLCI Middle School students participated in an annual project known as Engineering in the Barrio. We were joined by a team of college student instructors from San Diego State University who posed a challenge to our 6-8th graders: who can build the strongest bridge? The students were split into groups and given the same materials and rules to follow. Their creativity certainly came through their many design ideas.

On Wednesday of our engineering week, we were also able to design some prosthesis ideas and put them into action! Since some students participated in the event last year, we had a friendly competition where our veteran BLCI students were required to recall their engineering knowledge and instruct their peers. The students spent time discussing their plan then raced to build the prosthetic fingers. It was such a hit, even some elementary students joined in and wanted to build. The middle school students were eager to show off their knowledge and pass on construction tips to the younger ones.

Our week culminated in a visit to San Diego State on Saturday, November 1st, where the BLCI teams competed for the strongest bridge. They also each had the opportunity to formally present their structures. The students shared their bridge research and design process. We went on a great tour of SDSU where the students learned about the design of the buildings on campus, and the sustainability of the new Student Union on campus.

Mil gracias to SDSU and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for a great week at BLCI!

A Letter from the Executive Director

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Dear BLCI Community of Friends,

I hope you all had a great summer. I sure did. I spent most of it reflecting on BLCI’s identity, its history and its future as we move forward with aspirations of making a larger dent on the achievement gap, or as one of our board members, David Lopez from Teach For America calls it, the “Opportunity Gap.”

I am happy to say that we have an amazing team of board members, staff, volunteers and parents who work hard to make a difference in the lives of close to 300 students in Barrio Logan and Chula Vista and over 160 of their parents. The growth we’re experiencing is great considering only five years ago we served a mere 125 students in only one of San Diego’s underserved communities, but we’re not even scratching the surface. There are tens of thousands of underserved students in San Diego with the potential to enroll and succeed in college, but with very few resources to believe in themselves and to actually make their college dreams a reality. BLCI’s purpose is to address this problem head on, but we can’t do it alone. It is thanks to the support of people like you that we can transform lives, families and communities. I get to see the fruit of our labor every day!

My office is right at the entrance of our suite and two large windows look out to the lime green double doors where students and their families walk in each day. I can see the smiles of the families as they walk through the door and their goodbyes as they leave. When I chose this office, several people thought I was crazy for being so visible at all times.

“How are you going to get any work done?,” they warned me.

I told them that BLCI is growing and I needed to stay grounded in the community. I needed to remember why we’re here, who we’re serving, and recognize the true spirit of the organization.

This is a year of learning for us at BLCI. Through a partnership with InsytAnalytics, a research and evaluation consulting group led by UC San Diego faculty, we will be testing our theory of change and learning about the effectiveness of the different components of our programs. We’re examining what BLCI could do to better achieve its vision of providing access to higher education for all.

We also launched a new leadership program, the Executive Director’s Leadership Council (EDLC), where students learn the ins and outs of a nonprofit and the characteristics of effective leaders in order to create change in an organized fashion in their communities. It’s our attempt to prepare the next generation of community leaders.

The President of the EDLC is Francisco “Panchito” Martinez who has been with BLCI since the 4th grade and is now a senior in high school. Panchito takes every opportunity to give back to BLCI and to the local community with no desire to take credit for it. He has participated in community events, political campaigns, tutoring and mentoring younger students at BLCI and helping me develop the EDLC program. When asked why he likes to help so much he says, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Other Council Members include Sarabi Rodriguez, also a senior at BLCI who has been part of the family since 3rd grade. Sarabi is a high achieving, humble and super active student at BLCI and at the Preuss School UCSD. She is the Editor and Chief of the school yearbook among several other leadership roles. We are proud of her accomplishments and the example she sets for the community. Finally, we have Karla Peraza who is now in 11th grade, but started BLCI in the 3rd grade. Karla is involved in community service for various organizations in San Diego and is constantly looking for ways to help other students at BLCI. Her passion is education and she has aspirations of becoming a teacher.

These students exemplify what BLCI is attempting to cultivate, leaders who see higher education as an opportunity to make a change in their lives, their families and their communities. None of this is possible without the diverse community of supporters, volunteers, partners, parents, staff and board members who collaborate to ensure this project we call BLCI thrives for years to come.

I look forward to yet another successful year here at BLCI alongside committed friends who help our students reach high for their dreams. Come visit us some time and see it all for yourself!

Warm regards,

Jose Cruz

Lowriders for College


For eight years now, BLCI has partnered with our local friends from the Aztlan Car Club. This September, Aztlan hosted their 8th Annual Picnic and Car Show at the J Street Marina in Chula Vista and the proceeds raised during this event were raised to support BLCI. Visitors enjoyed performances by live bands and dances, including beautiful Aztec Indigenous and Mexican Folkloric dances. In addition, Picnic included a display of classic lowrider cars from car clubs from all around San Diego and Imperial County. BLCI staff, parents and students came out to support the cause by serving food and selling raffle tickets.

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Two weeks ago, members of Aztlan Car Club presented our BLCI students and families with a check for the highest amount yet, $2,000! As a special treat, Aztlan brought a few of their low-rider cars for our students to see.

Aztlan Check

We’d like to give a big thanks to Marcos Morachis, Meza Paints, Roxanne Ocampo, and all the members of the Aztlan Car Club for their continued support. Thank you for believing in our students!

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