Celebration Honors 2024 Napa Valley High School Graduates Supported by If Given A Chance

Napa, California—April 18, 2024—Marking its 30th year, If Given A Chance (IGAC) will honor 10 Napa County high school students who, with the help of this non-profit organization, faced extraordinary challenges and committed to continue their education. The “Celebrating Our Stars” event, which is open to the public, takes place from 5-9 p.m. May 10 at Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.


Tickets to the event and information on being a sponsor are available at ifgivenachance.org/celebrating-our-stars.

The event will feature IGAC alumnus Angeles Zaragoza, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in political science and Chicano studies and went on to law school at UCLA. Today, Angeles is a juvenile public defender for the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender’s Office. 

Angeles said she can relate to the young people she represents because she also struggled as a youth in Napa County. She grew up in poverty in an unstable home environment, landed briefly in juvenile hall in seventh grade, and was kicked out of her home many times, ending up “bouncing around and living with friends who would take me in.”

When selected for IGAC as a junior in the AP program at Vintage High School, Angeles said her life turned around. “If Given A Chance gave me a sense of financial security as well as general support and a feeling that I was part of a community of other young people who had experienced things even far worse than myself,” she said. “Being part of If Given A Chance helped me destigmatize my own experience where I no longer felt it was something to be ashamed of.” 

Celebration Honors 2024 Napa Valley High School Graduates Supported by If Given A Chance

 Angeles Zaragoza, If Given A Chance alumnus and juvenile public defender in LA, will be a featured speaker at the Celebrating Our Stars event on May 10.

Attendees will also hear the stories of the 10 graduating seniors being honored, including Ariet Solano Gonzalez of Vintage High School. The son of Mexican immigrants who did not complete elementary school, Ariet faced many challenges to reach his dream of attending college, including physical ones.

“At a young age, I was diagnosed with a heart murmur, which made me decide to live life to the fullest. To do this, I chose to follow my dreams of going to UC Davis to study enology and music, he said. “If Given A Chance made this dream possible by helping me with my essays, assisting me in getting scholarships, and tutoring me throughout the process of getting accepted to UC Davis.”

The dinner event will also include comments from Allison Haley, IGAC’s board president and Napa County district attorney, and a performance by an acapella singing group from Vintage High School. The graduates will receive certificates from California Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters; US Rep. Mike Thompson (D- St. Helena); and IGAC representatives. Napa County Superior Court Judge Scott R. L. Young will introduce each student following the tradition of his father, retired Napa County Superior Court Judge Ron Young, who performed this function at the awards ceremony for over 20 years.

Organizations sponsoring the event include Bank of Marin, Goldman Sachs, Kaiser Permanente, Morgan Stanley, PG&E, Providence Queen of the Valley Medical Center, Salesforce, and The Doctors Company.

The following students will be honored: 

Alexa Briseno De Santiago of New Tech High School 

Andrea Mendoza of Napa High School 

Ariet Solano Gonzalez of Vintage High School 

Isamar Alcazar Ortiz of Napa High School 

Itzel Esperanza Mendez of New Tech High School

Lily Andrews of Vintage High School  

Mariana Ramirez Herrera of Vintage High School 

Marijose Castro Bernal of Napa High School 

Max Powers of Vintage High School 

Sylvia Meyer of St. Helena High School 


Also being recognized at the event are LeAnah Paul, a 2021 graduate of St. Helena High School and student at California State University, San Marcos, who is the first student to receive an IGAC award named in honor of Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Daisy Zamora, a 2019 graduate of Napa High School and student at Sacramento State University, who received the William S. Chiat Award to a student who identifies as LGBTQ+; and Liliana Carreon, a 2022 graduate of Vintage High School and student at Napa Valley College, who received the Almeida/Price Award for a student studying business.  

About If Given A Chance

If Given A Chance identifies vulnerable, yet resilient, Napa County high school juniors who have faced extraordinary challenges and demonstrated a commitment to continuing their education to better their lives. It helps students regain their sense of self-worth, emotional balance, and independent living skills through mentoring, life-skills training, mental health support, and financial assistance. IGAC provides ongoing support as these students navigate the challenges of obtaining a college degree or completing a technical training program so they can achieve job security, experience increased quality of life, and become contributing members of their community.

For more information, contact: Beth Fox, executive director, at 707-260-5656 or email Beth@ifgivenachance.org

For More Information

For more information, contact: Beth Fox, executive director, at 707-536-7834 or email Beth@ifgivenachance.org