Local Scholarship For La Puente Activists

Graduates from Sparks Middle School can apply to honor a lasting legacy


Francesca P. Ochoa proudly marches with causes for social change. Photo courtesy of Gilda Ochoa.

In honor of a local activist, three to four Mt. SAC or La Puente High School graduates will receive a $1,000 scholarship if they have graduated from Sparks Middle School and shown a commitment to activism or have spent time doing work for the community.

This second annual social change award commemorates Francesca P. Ochoa, a teacher and leader who learned the ropes from her father, a union organizer and business agent for the Italian Local 89 – the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Ochoa served as a trailblazer and inspiration for many in the Spanish speaking community of La Puente. Quickly establishing her roots in the local area, she attended Mt. SAC before attaining her bachelor’s in Spanish language and literature from Cal State Los Angeles in 1964.

She went on to teach at Sparks in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District from 1970 until her retirement in 2008. She was awarded with HLPUSD’s Teacher of the Year Award in 1995 and continued to push for social change after retiring.

Among her many accomplishments is the legacy of the Juntos Podemos! (Together We Can!) movement and the change it enacted in HLPUSD. In 2020, Juntos Podemos! and other community members pushed HLPUSD to adopt district-based elections, which resulted in the disenfranchised unincorporated community of Valinda receiving their first representative on the school board in over 50 years. The district also passed ethnic studies curriculum due to the group’s advocacy.

To join in and help the next generation of Ochoa’s legacy of community activism, applicants are asked to email [email protected] no later than May 31.

Applicants are required to include their name, year graduated from Sparks, one to two paragraphs describing their work in the community and/or social justice, one to two paragraphs about their future plans and the name and contact information of a reference for their commitment to the community.

This reference may be a teacher, professor, counselor or other community member.

Mt. SAC students are to include an additional one to two paragraphs describing their college educational experience as well.

Finalists will be contacted after June 1 for a brief Zoom discussion, and winners will be announced on June 22 and recognized on June 29.