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January 18, 2022

Watsonville Ivy League Project founder honored

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville Ivy League Project was launched 14 years ago with a simple idea: bringing high school students to the nation’s top universities will give them a taste of their possible options after they graduate.

And the experiment has been successful. Since its inception, more than 130 students have taken the eight-day, whirlwind tour to 10 universities such as Harvard, MIT, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Boston University. 

On Wednesday, the program’s founder, Lorraine Sandoval, was honored for her contributions in a ceremony during the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board meeting.

There, she received proclamations from Mayor Jimmy Dutra, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput, Congressman Jimmy Panetta and Assemblymember Robert Rivas. She also got the Paul Harris Award from the Freedom Rotary Club.

“The lives you are changing and touching, you are the community,” Dutra said. “You are changing lives.”

Sandoval is now 85 and preparing to back away from her leadership role in the Ivy League Project. During the ceremony she deflected the laudatory praise heaped upon her, naming all the people who make the trip possible, from logistical planning to scheduling to organizing the Broadway play the students see while there. 

“It just can’t be one person,” she said. “It takes a village. It takes everybody.”

Sandoval said that she brought the trip to PVUSD to give students here a broad range of opportunities.

“I feel in my heart that we have students who are just as capable as the students on the East Coast to compete at the level of these elite colleges,” she said. “Why can’t we give them the opportunity to look and see what’s out there and prepare them for a profession?”

Sandoval spent more than two decades as a school administrator, working as an assistant principal and principal. She retired in 1995, but soon returned to work as a counselor and scholarship coordinator, telling this newspaper in 2008 that she “failed retirement.”

Trustee Kim De Serpa said to her, “The amount of lives that have been touched by the program you started is immeasurable.”

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