An educator in Santa Ana, California, is continuing to change lives with the help of community members and National Life’s LifeChanger of the Year program.
Beau Menchaca, one of 16 LifeChanger of the Year winners this year, used some of his prize money to create student scholarships for students at Century High School in Santa Ana, where he is a higher education coordinator.
Menchaca won $1,500 personally and Century High got $1,500. He used the money donated to the school to create the National Life Group Scholarship at Century High School.
“The money you guys donated to the school, I asked my boss and I said, ‘We have to use this for scholarships,’” says Menchaca.
The scholarship gives money to three students each year to use for textbooks and school supplies when they reach college. The scholarships will be awarded based on GPA, involvement in the community, and an essay students have to write describing an obstacle they had overcome in their life. Two of the recipients this year will be attending University of California Los Angeles and University of California Davis.
Menchaca gave his personal prize money to his wife so she can travel. “Every time I need help she’s always been there,” he says. “I said, ‘For all those years you’ve contributed to me I want to pay it back.’”
Receiving the award was a very humbling moment for Menchaca. “The students were very excited, the parents were very excited, and the staff was very excited.”
“In my district we have lots of life changers,” he says. “We need to acknowledge and award educators who are doing good and [National Life is] doing that.”
As a higher education coordinator at Century High, Menchaca works with educators and students to create programs that inspire and motivate students to learn and grow during and beyond their years in high school. “In three years we’ve hit major milestones,” says Menchaca. “In one night of our financial aid kickoff, 41 percent of our seniors applied for financial aid.”
One of Menchaca’s biggest satisfactions is helping students. “At one point I was on the other side,” he says. “I was someone who needed help. I was that one student who was always in the corner but there was one teacher who motivated me, who told me I could succeed.”
“You’ve got to pay it forward,” says Menchaca.
Menchaca attributes the inspiring work he has done to the teamwork and help from his colleagues at Century High School. The LifeChanger website has profile pages for each of the educators nominated. And Menchaca’s page is filled with nearly 100 comments from friends, family, and colleagues showing support and sharing stories of the inspiring work he has done.
Recent graduate, Dulce Loza, writes that she is now attending Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, thanks to Menchaca.
“He constantly encouraged me to keep applying for scholarships and to talk to financial aid to further understand my financial aid package,” Loza writes. “He also helped hundreds of students and parents get connected. In the end parental support and staff support is key in academic success. That’s what Menchaca has to offer above many other things he does for his students. With more people like him, higher education will sky rocket in no time.”
Rudy Martin Del Campo, a current senior at Century commented on just how far Menchaca’s work has reached throughout the school.
“Last year, I went to my friend’s senior graduation for 2015, and someone asked all the seniors to raise their hand if Menchaca has helped with their future opportunities for college, and I was shocked that at least 80 percent of the seniors raised their hands. That was so cool to realize and it made me realize how much of a big deal he is to our school, our district, and our lives,” Del Campo writes.
One of the ways Menchaca works to inspire students is a project he created in the ‘90s, when he was a school counselor, called “The Gallery of Illustrious women.”
“I remember walking down the hall and two girls were talking and one said, ‘I want to be a helicopter pilot,’ and the other said, ‘You can’t because you’re a girl,’” he says.
He realized that students needed to see the good work that many female leaders are doing around the world. So he set out to ask leaders to send in letters and pictures so he could present positive female role models to students. So far, the gallery has received letters from more than 40 countries.
Rosa Yates, a former student of Menchaca’s, credits her academic success to the help she received from him.
“I remember when I would visit your office when you were my counselor my freshman year and asking you all of my questions. Thank you for helping me understand how my higher education can shape my community and future,” Yates writes. “You have impacted my character so positively that I hope to be similar to you: a person willing to help others any possible way that they can.”