“On Arts”: Public Purpose Program – Jewelea Rivas, Winner of the 826 Valencia Taylor Renfrew Ingham Memorial Scholarship

Jewelea Rivas in the Mission. Photo by Amelia Levin-Sheffield

Jewelea Rivas, as a graduating senior at  Joe O’Connell High School in the Mission District, won the 2010 “826 Valencia Taylor Renfrew Ingham Memorial Scholarship.” The scholarship, named after a dedicated Hunter’s Point art teacher, was a fitting honor for Rivas who is dedicated to doing public purpose work through education.

Rivas first became involved with 826 Valencia when she enrolled in the after-school writing program which 826 Valencia hosted at her middle school. Rivas and her fellow students were so inspired by the writing program that they started a student newspaper. Rivas continued her involvement 826 Valencia throughout high school. She fondly remembers being in the “Writer’s Room” at 826 Valencia and especially the helpful staff and volunteers who were “always involved in different classes; coming in and helping us with our essays.”  They even helped Rivas write her personal statement for her college application.

Rivas heard about the 826 Valencia Scholarship College and Career Readiness Program, which helped her attend college, through College Connect, an organization that helps students with all their college needs. In her application she talked about her love for education and her desire to support students in her community. After being chosen from a small pool of applicants, Rivas was awarded the scholarship at a small ceremony held in a cramped space in the back of a writers room. Family members of Taylor Renfrew Ingham, who died in 2005 were present. They showed Rivas a picture of Taylor and shared stories about her as an educator and inspiration. Rivas says she truly feels a connection with Renfrew Taylor’s values.

Five years later and now a graduate from Cal Poly, Rivas works for 7 Teepees as the college and career program coordinator at Mission High School. She gives parents and families information about scholarships and colleges, trying to get the community on board with what students need in order to be successful as they apply to college.

7 Teepees is another organization that Rivas cites as being an influence on her as a student growing up in the Mission. Her motivation for working in a public purpose job is largely due to her gratitude to the organizations such as 7 Teepees and 826 Valencia.. “Growing up in the Mission was difficult, a lot of my peers were caught up in gangs and drugs… There were so many people pushing me beyond that lifestyle, I can’t even imagine where I would be or what my experiences would have been without those organizations.”

Postscript: I am writing this series of articles, “On Arts” for the Lick-Wilmerding Hyphen as my 11th grade Public Purpose Project. In many ways, these articles are a continuation of my 10th grade PPP, which was to volunteer at the non-profit organization 826 Valencia as a creative writing tutor for students in the third, fourth and fifth grades at the Buena Vista Horace Mann Middle School in the Mission District. (See the article about my experience with 826 Valencia here.) My intention is to assist with fundraising for 826 Valencia by writing about the City Arts & Lectures “On Arts” benefit series as well as explore how organizations and individuals in different vocations engage in public purpose work throughout their lives. I think it is important for Lick-Wilmerding students to see how the public purpose work we are doing as part of our educational process can continue, no matter what career and path we choose as adults.

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About Amelia Levin-Sheffield

Amelia is a junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School and writes for the student newspaper, The Paper Tiger. She also manages the Style section and is one of three co-managing editors of the on-line LWHS community news source, Hyphen. Amelia is a voracious reader and started writing in second grade after getting a flash of inspiration from a gnome sighting in the hollow of a tree in her backyard.

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