It’s a new year and Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera is starting out with a bang! Julio Ornelas, a senior at El Rancho High School (ERHS), was featured on ABC7 News as an “ABC Cool Kid” for his work in the community. Julio (in the center on the picture to the right) earned Generation 1st Degree’s third “ABC Cool Kid” nomination in a row, following the footsteps of ERHS alumni Armando Godoy-Velasquez and Justin Uribe.
As a senior student, Vice-President of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s Leader Club and President of the Associated Student Body, Julio Ornelas has a very busy schedule. Most recently, he pushed for his fellow students to donate a toy as part of ERHS’ annual campaign that donates toys to the Junior Foundation Charities, a non-profit that empowers kids with cancer.
Since his sophomore year, Julio has helped coordinate collecting toys as part of this annual toy drive. In the last few months, his level of activity has increased, and so has the amount of toys donated - more than 200 toys that brought holiday joy to kids with cancer.
Julio’s passion to help the Junior Foundation was inspired by being the primary caregiver for his late grandmother, who had cancer. Seeing the devastating effects that cancer had on his family motivated Julio to expand the toy drive from awareness in just three classrooms to a school-wide effort.
“I’ve learned a lot about cancer through my family’s experience with my grandmother,” Julio said. “The experience made me value the little things in life that bring us joy. If a toy can give that sense of joy to a child with cancer, then I am more than happy to help make that happen.”
Julio has shown tremendous leadership during this campaign and has leveraged his leadership role on college applications and for scholarships.
“As students look for volunteer opportunities to use in college applications, they should really think about volunteering or helping an organization that means something to them,” said Michelle Sandoval, program manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera. “Julio is a great example of a student who has discovered a way to give back to something that he’s passionate about.”
Julio’s advice to students who are looking for volunteer opportunities is to really think about the causes you care about, and then seek out ways to support organizations that are doing work with that specific cause. He believes it gives volunteer time more meaning instead of just a box to check off for college applications. The meaningful experiences also turn into a wealth of personal and powerful stories to share on college and scholarship essays.
“I’ve volunteered for other organizations in the past, but giving back to Junior Foundation Charities has been much more meaningful because I was really motivated to give back to children with cancer and their families,” said Ornelas. “When you volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about it not only motivates you to do more, but it makes it enjoyable and fulfilling.”