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AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute prepares youth for college

SRP is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing the vital contributions the Hispanic community makes to our company and our region. This week, we highlight the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute, one of SRP’s community partners.

AGUILA Youth Leadership Insitute

Zamantha Lopez Aldaco was a senior at Mesa’s Westwood High School in 2009 when she joined the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute. The Phoenix-based nonprofit, which prepares youth for college admission and graduation based on cultural understanding, encouraged her to apply as she prepared to attend college.

Today, more than 10 years later, Lopez Aldaco is the first graduate of the program to sit on AGUILA’s board of directors. She serves the board as a graduate of the University of Rochester, an engineer and a representative of SRP.

“What’s really funny is that I actually joined SRP because of an employee, Nick Quinones, who I knew in the AGUILA program,” Lopez Aldaco said. “It’s an incredibly intertwined story.”

AGUILA and SRP: A long history of partnership

SRP has partnered with AGUILA for many years, supporting the organization with funds and volunteers as it works to increase the pool of students attending college.

In the beginning, the program was focused only on high school students. It has now expanded to middle and elementary school programs, with a mission of conditioning youth earlier in life with positive messages about attending college.

Building toward the future

In a way, Lopez Aldaco said, SRP’s support of AGUILA is helping develop its future workforce, focusing on underserved populations that need additional resources to get to college.

Lopez Aldaco and AGUILA leadership are excited about this next chapter in the program’s history. College Scholarship Search Night, for example, will have students bonding during an all-night program facilitated by administrators helping them search for and apply for scholarships. Volunteers will be on-site to help them write and review their essays.

AGUILA goes beyond just educational messaging, too. “AGUILA teaches students about our heritage and how to tell stories about it,” Lopez Aldaco said. “It also shows kids how to pay success forward and stay involved in the community.”

A role model’s influence

“It’s been great to see AGUILA grow and mature over time,” Lopez Aldaco continued. “AGUILA was the first time I saw something I was involved with directly impact where I ended up — in generation engineering at SRP.”

Ultimately, Lopez Alcado hopes her involvement is a success story that can help AGUILA students in the future. Her diverse experience and current role in a STEM field will certainly help inspire the students she meets.

“Getting engaged early on can make a difference,” Lopez Aldaco said. “We’re creating a larger pool of students geared for success, of students that get a college education.”

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