Courtesy of The Richmond Standard
Hercules High senior Garvey Buchongo may not have had a father growing up, but since age five she has had her track-and-field team, which she calls “the village that raised me.”
The sport is a big reason the teenager founded and operates a charitable nonprofit — all while excelling at school.
With help from her supportive mother and the coaches and uncles who acted as her father figures, Buchongo learned through track-and-field how to overcome challenges. And through team activities like crab feeds, toy drives and pancake breakfasts she learned the value of community. These influences were at play during a track meet several years ago, when she saw children preparing to compete without shoes.
“When I asked my mother why they were running barefoot, she said that they couldn’t afford shoes,” Buchongo said. “As I got older I realized that this is the reality many are faced with on a global scale.”
That realization led the teenager to launch a nonprofit called The Freedom to Run Project, which aims to collect used shoes, spikes and other equipment for donation to underprivileged youth around the world. The new nonprofit, which has already led to donations of more than 50 pairs of shoes along with the establishment of contacts with track-and-field programs, is one reason Buchongo won first place in this year’s Dr. William King Scholarship program.
Buchongo was one of four West Contra Costa Unified seniors to win the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network college scholarships in honor of Dr. William F. King, a distinguished Chevron employee of 27-plus years who retired in 2003 and was a mentor, community activist and educator.
During its 17th Annual Black History Awareness Celebration on Wednesday, the Black Employee Network honored Marlon Creswell, Arnold Dimas, Sydnea Booker and Garvey Buchongo, all of who not only excel in the classroom but also in the community.
It was Creswell’s curiosity about how computer software systems work that led to his early enrollment in computer classes. He first received an introduction to Microsoft PowerPoint and Word, which he used to craft spellchecked essays for school assignments. Continued curiosity led him to his high school’s Tech Academy, where he launched into digital arts and produced posters for school events. He also took interest in HTML and can now create any website he wants.
Creswell hopes to eventually launch clubs and organizations to encourage more diversity in STEM careers.
“It was a privilege that I had so many opportunities to expand my knowledge,” he says. “I realized that not everyone has access to the opportunities that I had. So I want to work to create these opportunities for the future generations to come.”
Arnold Dimas has an intimate respect and awareness for the past and present struggles of minorities in his community. His awareness of the limitations of his surroundings led Dimas to take community college courses as a ninth grader.
But his mastery in the classroom is only half of Dimas’ story. He has been heavily involved in working to improve his community on the Richmond Youth Leadership Committee and as president of the Red Cross Club. Even more so, he has a passion for public health, having accrued much knowledge through extensive research on the topic, and hopes to further those studies in college.
“In my family, my dad left Mexico with the hopes of accessing ‘the American Dream,’” Dimas said. “He is a plumber, and stresses the importance of receiving an education so that one day I can use my mind instead of having to use my hands.”
Observing how violence, substance abuse and mental illness affect low-income neighborhoods, Hercules High senior Sydnea Booker established her purpose to create safe community spaces for young people to learn and express themselves.
Her big idea is to open a chain of performing arts academies nationwide for kids to learn various crafts. She hopes these academies will contribute to building communities while offering safe havens and creative outlets for youth.
Booker has held leadership roles since her freshman year, when she was elected class president. She has also been leading captain of the cheer team, Spirit Committee Chairman of her school as a junior, African American Student Union vice president and the campus’ store manager.