Thousands of students today learned why completing high school improves their chances for later success, part of the message delivered by Ford Motor Company’s innovative Ford Driving Dreams tour at its first-ever stop in northern California.
Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, kicked off the Ford Driving Dreams Tour in San Jose at an inspirational pep rally in Yerba Buena High School. The tour is slated to impact 5,000 northern California students in schools with high Latino concentrations. Designed to motivate high school students to complete high school on time and pursue higher education, the program will also engage middle school students for the first time in the U.S.
“We are committed to playing an active role in the community, helping level the playing field for students that want to succeed but lack the resources to do so,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, at the kick-off event in Yerba Buena High School today. “With our local efforts through the Ford Driving Dreams Tour and the Palo Alto Research and Innovation Center, we continue to focus on education and innovation as our top priorities.”
The Ford Driving Dreams Tour presented a motivational pep rally, essay contest, and scholarships to high school students in four San Jose public schools. It is part of a long-term northern California community investment launched by Ford and its dealers in June.
Former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez and nationally recognized empowerment speaker Roy Juarez, Jr., whose powerful story was featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens, kicked off the program at a pep rally at Yerba Buena High School. It will be followed by motivational rallies at Andrew Hill High School, James Lick High School, and William C. Overfelt High School. All four schools are part of the East Side Union High School District. In partnership with the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), the California Tour will have impacted 4,000 high school students and 1,000 middle school students.
To underscore the importance of STEM careers, former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez spoke to the high school students, inspiring the youth to develop an indomitable spirit when pursuing their dreams. A Stockton native, Hernandez experienced spaceflight in a NASA mission and spent 13 days in orbit.
“I first got my dream as I hoed a row of sugar beets in a California field with my parents,” said former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez. “It took 12 tries to achieve my dream of becoming an astronaut. I am proof that with a good education, solid work ethic, and the right resources, any student’s dream – a dream that others may turn down the first 11 times – becomes a goal that can be fulfilled.”
In partnership with local Boys & Girls Clubs, approximately 1,000 students from local middle schools will participate in an essay contest which encourages them to reflect on their studies and future careers. The essay contest will be open to the middle school students that attend the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley, Fresno County, Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties, Monterey County, and Greater Sacramento. Prizes include gift cards and iPads.
The Ford Driving Dreams Tour was designed by Ford Motor Company Fund to help Latino youth graduate on time and pursue higher education. Launched in 2012, the program has reached more than 30,000 students in Chicago, Indiana, Florida, Texas, and, most recently, Panama. Ford Driving Dreams initiatives, including the Tour, have delivered more than $3 million in educational resources such as scholarships, college preparedness, tutoring programs, parental engagement, and motivational activities.