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The City Journals

Latino in Action Student Attends Special Summit in D.C.

Aug 30, 2016 03:04PM ● By Travis Barton

Diana Mota and Jonathan D’Cruz snap a photo before the Beating the Odds Summit begins in Washington, D.C. Mota and D’Cruz were two of 160 students selected to attend the Summit. –Jose Enriquez

Diana Mota, a recent graduate of Granger High School, was selected to participate in the Beating the Odds Summit on July 19 where 160 students nationwide were celebrated by Michelle Obama.
Students were nominated by local educators for overcoming difficult circumstances. Mota was nominated by Latinos in Action (LIA) and one of two students to represent the organization at the Summit. The other was Jonathan D’Cruz from Hollywood Hills High School in Florida.
“They are really good role models, they’ve overcome so much,” said Jose Enriquez, LIA Founder and executive director. “They know exactly what they want to be and what they want to do.”
LIA is a secondary elective course targeted at Latino and minority students where they learn how to become successful professionals and leaders in their community. LIA was one of 63 nonprofit organizations chosen to nominate students for the Summit.
Enriquez said the powerful part is that both of the students want to give back to their community,
“That’s really what we want,” Enriquez said.
With LIA headquarters based in Salt Lake City, Enriquez knew he wanted a local student.
“Granger does such a good job [with LIA classes] so we wanted to give them props for what they do,” Enriquez said. Granger has the most LIA classes with eight.
“That was pretty cool that he offered us that opportunity,” said Braydon Eden, Granger High’s LIA teacher.
Enriquez wanted a student who had overcome struggles both inside and out of the school arena impacting their community and peers.
“Her name just jumped into my head,” Eden said of Mota.
Eden taught Mota for three years at Granger witnessing her growth from a sophomore to college-bound graduate.
Mota had attendance and academic struggles her sophomore and some of her junior year. She was also working while attending school and considered dropping out to go full-time work.
“She just had to fight to fix some of the mistakes she was doing,” Eden said.
Eden said he saw improvement from Mota throughout the years, but especially during her senior year setting an example for her younger sister.
“People had kind of written her off, but she didn’t care what people thought—she had a goal,” Eden said. “I was really impressed with that.”
Mota took the hardest class available at Granger and received an A, participated on the track and field team and designed the LIA class banner.
 “She could’ve just gotten a full-time job and said, ‘You know what, high school’s not for me,’ but she kept coming,” Eden said. “I was able to see that growth over the three years and she was beating the odds.”
Enriquez accompanied Mota and D’Cruz to Washington, D.C. for the Summit where they went on a tour of the White House and met first lady Michelle Obama.
“It was a great experience just to be in the White House,” Enriquez, a native of El Salvador, said.
The best opportunity of all fell to Mota when she was selected to ask the first lady a question. All attending students had the chance to write two questions and Obama would select 12 of them to answer. Due to time, only five were allowed to share their question, Mota’s was the fifth one.
“You couldn’t script it any better…it was really cool,” Enriquez said.
What was Mota’s question?
“We all have role models that make a difference in our lives and create change within us, who was that person in your life?” Enriquez recited from memory.
Mota will be attending Salt Lake Community College this fall and Eden said he hopes she continues her ambitious desire.
“Right now she wants to be a nurse so I hope she sets that goal and doesn’t let it get away,” Eden said.