Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Watsonville to Washington — students honored in D.C.

[Editor’s note: The following feature by Marcus Cisneros, Senior at Watsonville High School, is about the trip he and classmate Morelia Lopez took to Washington, D.C. to represent a  group of local students honored last December as Video Game Innovation Fellows by the Entertainment Software Association and Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT). Read more in the Watsonville Pajaronian.]

Marcus Cisneros, Congressman Sam Farr, and Morelia Lopez in Washington, D. C.

Marcus Cisneros, Congressman Sam Farr, and Morelia Lopez in Washington, D. C.

Experiences come and go, but your work affects people and lives on forever. From the strawberry fields of Watsonville, California to the White House in Washington, D.C, winning the LOFT award of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation is an experience I will carry with me forever.

As I was in the plane, all of the pieces of the puzzle started to come together and I began to realize the responsibility that had been bestowed upon me.  Being from Watsonville and growing up in a small farming community, I realized that anyone can do amazing things with the right tools and mindset.

When we got off the plane, the other winners and I began to talk about how honored we felt to win this award. The more we talked to one another the more we began we were very much alike even though we came from very different backgrounds.

The next day is where the events really began to unfold. I recognized that I was rolling with graduates from Stanford, Dartmouth and MIT so I knew I was given a great honor to be selected amongst these great scholars. The first event we went to was a briefing at the Capitol Building where I was first exposed to the men who made it all possible like Antonio Tijerino, President of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

The next thing we went to do was the panel where I presented at the Eisenhower Executive Building. Presenting in front of industry leaders like the Michael D. Gallagher President of the Entertainment Software Association, is something to be proud of but it made it even better knowing that I was representing a great community and a great team of innovators that developed the College Mentor app with me.

We were granted an opportunity to meet with Congressman Sam Farr, I noticed his eyes light up when we gave the pitch on the app. It was astonishing to see his excitement over a couple of high school kids creating an app that could potentially help the nations youth. He offered to come back to Watsonville and help out in the future.

On the last day there in D.C. a friend of my mothers, Rafael Lopez gave me an exclusive tour of the White House. Since he works under President Obama, he has the ability to get individuals cleared through the secret service to visit the White House. He grew up with my mother in Watsonville since they were children and were both in the Penny Club, a former youth music band. He had been working for the White House for some time and exchanged stories about growing up in our hometown, pursuing dreams and talking about how far education can take you. It was his first time visiting it at Christmas time and he said it was especially memorable experiencing it with someone from Watsonville.

While developing the app, I had the honor of working with 11 other great individuals and great instructors, gaining memories that i will remember for the rest of my life. Making the app was a learning experience and a tough one, but it was all worth it in the end, knowing that we were making a tool that can not only benefit us but potentially help thousands of other students as well.

Experiencing the nation’s capital and presenting in front of industry leaders was an eye-opening experience. I learned so many things. Just by being around people that think like me that act like me, old and young and sharing that same creative mindset, was eye-opening. The responses we received during our presentations were amazing and touching. It was hard to process how well it was all going. Saying that we were the future of the industry and that we can be the leaders & innovators of the future were certain compliments that Iwill carry on with me forever.

Marcus Cisneros
Watsonville High School Senior

Sara Isenberg curates and publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit or contact Sara by email at if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.


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