Alumni Voices



The Busiest Girl in School Biz: NAC Class of 2013 Alum Marilynda Bustamante Engages UCLA

NAC Class of 2013 alum Marilynda Bustamante graduated from the UCLA with a Bachelors in Gender Studies and Chicanx Studies and a minor in Education. During her undergraduate career Marilynda was highly involved in school. Running, sometimes literally, through a day comprised of classes, meetings, workshops, work, and – on occasion – hanging out with friends, Marilynda was able to excel academically and socially. Her drive to be involved and excel academically rose from noticing the competitive culture on her campus. “It’s extremely competitive here in the science department, so

although students genuinely want to help each other succeed, there is an underlying pressure for everyone to feel the need to be the best.” One of Marilynda’s most surprising discoveries at UCLA was finding that others, including students and faculty, value her contribution to the academic community. “What was surprising to me as I transitioned to college was the high level of respect and intrigue I received from the adults here, as well as my peers.” She adds, “I was shocked that they were concerned with hearing my voice.” In addition to her courses, Marilynda was an active member of six campus clubs and organizations, including the Peer Health Exchange, where she taught pregnancy prevention and sexual education to students in low-income charter schools across Los Angeles. Although Marylinda was a leader in extracurricular programs and was focus on her academic pursuits, she also makes sure to spend time with friends and family. “Although I don’t see my family as often as I used to, when we do get together, we bond, grow, and learn with each other, creating lifelong memories along the way.”

Whether in the classroom, meeting hall, workplace, or dorm, or moving quickly from one to the next, Marilynda continued to expand her horizon and remain engaged at UCLA, and like she did for the Nicholas Academic Centers, leave it a better place for having shared her company.

A First-Class Guy: NAC Class of 2009 Alum Julio Cruz

As a young boy, Julio Cruz left his home in Mexico and immigrated with his family to the United States. From an early age, perhaps inspired by his family’s commitment to step outside of their comfort zone in search of greater success, Julio dreamed of forging academic trails and becoming the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. To ensure his success, Julio dedicated himself to his studies as well as extracurricular activities like basketball and track & field. By the time he graduated from Santa Ana High School in 2009 as one of the top 100 seniors in the Santa Ana Unified School District, Julio had gained admission to several prestigious schools, including University of California, Berkeley, Chapman University, Loyola Marymount University, and UCLA on a full-ride scholarship awarded through the Heid Memorial Foundation.When asked why he chose to attend UCLA, Julio responds, “I had heard about UCLA and USC ever since I could remember, and I always thought of UCLA as the good guy’s school.”He adds, “This mentality has never really changed, and I still feel the same way today.” At UCLA, Julio decided to major in Sociology, According to Julio, choosing a major represents only one aspect of the college experience, “I feel my experience here a UCLA opened me up to new ideas, thus broadening my thinking. My education changed how I believe things and see them.”

Four years later, Julio joined other members of the Nicholas Academic Centers’ Class of 2009 in the first group of NAC alums to graduate from college.

Class of 2011 Alumna Pursues Doctorate Degree at Purdue University

Class of 2011 NAC Alumna Eve Martinez has faced many challenges in life and has always found a way to succeed. She traveled 1900 miles to the small city of Galesburg, Illinois, home of Knox College. Eve quickly realized that her high school had not prepared her for the academic rigor Knox expected of its students. Regardless, Eve pulled through by finding inspiration through her mother and younger sister. Eve was determined to focus on STEM so she centered her attention on Physics and Engineering. During Eve’s junior year of college, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Helen Hoyt, invited her to conduct research in synthesizing iron catalysts. It was in the course of this research that Dr. Hoyt introduced Eve to the idea of pursuing her doctorate upon graduating college. Shortly after working with Dr. Hoyt, Eve was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program, a very selective platform designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies. With a double major in Chemistry and Spanish, Eve, applied to a series of Chemistry graduate programs around the nation, before accepting a full ride to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She began her graduate studies at Purdue during the summer of 2015 where she is focusing on Inorganic/Organometallic Chemistry under the supervision of Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Dr. Suzanne Bart. At Purdue, Eve will be part of the alarming fraction of Latinas obtaining their bachelors among all STEM doctorate degrees, that being only a mere 1%.

When asked what advice she has for current NAC Scholars, Eve Replied, “It is very easy to lose sight of your goals when you get caught up in the chaos of taking classes, working two jobs, participating in internships, etc. Many of us weren’t prepared for college, we didn’t go to the best schools in the nation like our college peers but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to succeed. Above all, you have to want it and you have to put in the work.”

From Junior to Freshman, Karla Atcheson Gets an Early Start

Most high school students in the United States take an average of six classes per year and graduate in four years. Karla Atcheson, a Nicholas Academic Centers’ (NAC) Class of 2014 graduate, is not like most high school students. During her freshman and sophomore years at Fullerton Union High School, Karla took seven classes, including several Honors and AP courses, and increased her academic workload to eight classes during her junior year, all while maintaining an un-weighted 3.9 GPA. Like other competitive students, Karla supplemented her academic workload with an extensive list of extracurricular activities and clubs, including the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation, the Water Polo and Swim team (until she found out she is allergic to chlorine), and Jazz Band. Karla also participated in various community service projects.During the Spring break of Karla’s Junior year she had a conversation with NAC Co-Founder, Retired Superior Court Judge Jack K. Mandel. Judge Mandel informed Karla of the possibility of bypassing her senior year to attend Allegheny College in the fall, but he also emphasized that she could likely attend an ivy-league school if she stayed behind to finish high school. After visiting Allegheny and thinking about what she needed to do to graduate early, she decided to spend what would have been her senior year in high school at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. “I chose Allegheny because of its prestigious Pre-Med program and because of its small size. I wasn’t very interested in going to a large school where it would be difficult to get one on one assistance and attention.”

Karla has recently graduated from Allegheny where she majored in Biology and is waiting to enter the next chapter in her life Medical School.