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Memory of Slain Montebello Teen Lives on Via Scholarship

Brenda Sierra

By Elmer Guardado

In memory of slain Schurr High School student Brenda Sierra, the Schurr Renaissance program has awarded seniors Ivan Barranco and Holly Tenorio the first annual $500 Brenda Sierra Scholarship.

Sierra, then 15, disappeared in October 2002 while walking to school in Montebello. Her body was found 50 miles away off a road underneath brush in the San Bernardino Mountains the next day.

The case was cold for 12 years until February 27, 2015 when Rosemary Chavira, a former classmate of Sierra, was arrested and charged with being involved with the murder.

With the recent attention being given to Sierra’s case, her sister, Fabiola Saavedra, teamed up with Sierra’s former teacher and Renaissance Advisor Kenny Seto to set up an annual scholarship in her name.

Seto is a Schurr alumni and has been advisor of the Renaissance program since its inception 14 years ago.

“We are hoping to grow the scholarships over the years to keep Brenda’s memory alive and to remind our current students of the many opportunities available to them,” said Seto. “Awarding the two scholarships to the two very deserving students is, we hope, only the beginning.”

Saavedra, also a Schurr graduate, established the scholarships in efforts to remind students to focus on the positive, stay motivated, and appreciate the opportunities they have ahead of them. Funds for the scholarship were collected from Saavedra and donations from the Schurr High School community.

On June 5 Saavedra spoke in front 900 Schurr students at a rally dedicated to Sierra. She spoke about the strugglers and confusion surrounding her sister’s death, as well as the struggles of raising children as a teenage mother, supporting her family, her subsequent graduation from college and her position as a manager of a non-profit organization.

Barranco, a first year Renaissance member, will attend Rio Hondo College next year to play soccer, and Tenorio, a three year Renaissance member, will attend Santa Monica City College to study psychology.

“It [the Brenda Sierra Scholarship] motivates me because we know that Brenda Sierra did not have the opportunities we had,” said Barranco. “The story proves that anything is possible, and we have to keep fighting, no matter what obstacles we are given.”

The Renaissance program recognizes students and staff accomplishments in academics, attendance, behavior, citizenship, and self-improvement. It was designed to involve and recognize as many students as possible. For information on how to contribute to the Brenda Sierra Scholarship call (909)-445-1001.

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