Erik Espinoza has recently learned that upon graduation he will join the distinguished Coro Fellows Program, a nine-month leadership program that has trained the likes of Sen. Diane Feinstein and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
Coro Fellows represents a diverse cross-section of accomplished individuals from colleges and universities who intend to develop their civic leadership skills to serve the public arena.
The political science major competed for the fellowship program against a diverse pool of highly motivated and intelligent graduating seniors around the country.
“This will be a life changing experience,” said Espinoza's adviser David Speak, a political science professor. “The Coro Fellowship is more than a networking opportunity. It has a year's worth of training with contacts that will radically alter the opportunities available to him.”
Espinoza's successful application to the program is even more impressive considering he was a former foster youth who took part in the university's Renaissance Scholars program, which helped guide him through the challenging transition from high school through college.
Espinoza entered the foster care system when he was 14. Emancipated foster youths often lack support and assistance once they leave the system at 18. Now 22, Espinoza credits the Renaissance Scholar program with guiding him through the sometimes complicated university system.
“It's awesome. It's helped me tremendously and got me through when I was down, he said. “When I didn't know what to do, what the next step was, what classes to take and how to choose a major — things people take for granted — they counseled me and showed me how not to get lost in this big college.”
Espinoza learned about the Coro program from an alumna of the program, who works at the same charter middle school in Los Angeles where he is a soccer coach and administrative assistant.
Upon learning Espinoza was set to graduate with his bachelor's degree in political science in June, she asked what he planned to do.
Espinoza was so inspired by his employer's high praise of the Coro program, he decided to apply.
“When I first found out I got it I was just overwhelmed. I couldn't believe it,” Espinoza said. “When I was a finalist I had met a lot of high-caliber people from ivy leagues and privates. I'm still a bit nervous to get to know them, but I look forward to breaking down stereotypes about people and schools. I'm feeling good about my future.”
Espinoza will graduate this June. In the summer he will prepare for the program, which begins in September. He hopes to attend law school after the nine-month program and empower people in poor communities.