Three Venice area high school students are among 17 studentparticipants in the Neighborhood Youth Association’s (NYA) after-school program who received scholarship awards March 4 at the 28th Annual Scholarship and Community Service Awards Dinner at the Riviera Country Club.

The NYA program provides low-income students with after-school academic enrichment using a personalized case management approach. All of the students in NYA’s program graduate from high school on time – nearly double the average reported by the Los Angeles Unified School District – and all of NYA’s high school seniors are going on to college, an NYA spokesperson said.

These students have overcome challenging obstacles to reach their goals and most will be first generation college students in their families, according to NYA.

Three local students who were awarded scholarships include Venice High School students Jackie Lepe and Cristina Sena, and Animo Venice Charter High School student Jose Santiago.

Lepe, who received the Adel M. Martinez Scholarship, has applied to some California universities and plans to major in psychology and sociology with the eventual goal of becoming a social worker.

“NYA has given me a place to contribute to my community,” she said.

Expected to become the first one in her family to attend college, Lepe said she wants to be a role model for her younger sister, showing her that learning can be fun, and that school has to be the number-one priority.

Santiago hopes to attend a California university and plans to major in filmmaking. He credits his parents with giving him the motivation to succeed and NYA for providing the necessary tools to help him with his schoolwork. A frequent volunteer, Santiago said he wants to become a leader in his Latino community.

Sena, who received the Spirit of NYA Award Scholarship, credits her supportive family and NYA for her success in high school and academic achievements. She hopes to attend an East Coast university or UCLA and major in criminal justice.

“I want to make my parents proud that I did this for myself,” she said about her college plans.

NYA’s scholarships are funded by private donations and also by Educational Insights, St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Mar Vista, and St. Matthew’s Parish in Pacific Palisades.