At a young age, Cornelio moved to Perris, California where the community quickly became his home and helped him become who he is today. Upon finishing high school, he was among the top ten runners in his school’s league, graduated among the top of his class, earned multiple awards for his academics, and holds a multitude of running records. Despite obstacles such as money burdens, transportation issues and parental disapproval, through his hard work and determination Cornelio is now propelling his future to one with endless possibilities and potential. Cornelio is now pursuing bachelor's degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A LOT OF THINGS WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED
I was born in Oregon and a few years after I moved to California, well, to Los Angeles. I only lived there about 1 to 2 years, and then I moved to Moreno Valley where I went to school from the 1st grade to 3rd grade, well, half of third grade. From there I moved to Perris where I’ve been ever since.
Mostly, it’s because of my brother. He has a heart condition and in LA there is a lot of pollution and everywhere we rented was small and cramped. Luckily one of my uncle's friends had a property out in Moreno Valley. It was a large property and there was no one on it. He wanted someone to take care of it because he lived in LA, too. So we moved here to Moreno Valley and the main reasons were that there was a lot more space and since it was away from a major city the air was cleaner and healthier for my brother. I’m pretty sure my parents liked the transition to Perris because every time someone would ask them why we moved they seemed to be proud to say that they moved from the crowded and polluted LA area to Perris. Well, Moreno Valley then Perris. Because now they had the opportunity to go back to their roots and grow vegetables and stuff. The rancho life, they had their gardens and they can actually have livestock, which you can’t do in the city.
I’ve complained about the dogs in the street, the dead dogs especially. The reality is that they do exist: dead dogs, the red store and well yeah, of course, there's gonna be dirt because it’s rural area. But I mean it's cool to actually see people have horses, cows and animals. You can’t really do that in the city. The houses in Perris are actually a lot more spaced out than if you were to go to Moreno Valley or the city, where the houses are right next to each other. Obviously, they’re nicer houses. Actual houses instead of track homes. I mean it's not like the nicest place, but I mean, yeah, it’s home.
It’s a big transition from the dirt in Perris to the concrete here in UCLA. It’s a big BIG difference. It takes a little getting used to, especially since the cities we are next to like Beverly Hills and Westwood, are high income luxury places, and you see rich people in their Lambos or Porsches going around like it’s nothing. But overall I think I adjusted well. I don’t know if I’m exactly gonna stay in Perris, but I’d like to stay here in California. I like the weather, the people. Maybe not in a major city like LA, but somewhere a bit more rural. Definitely around the area. There's potential in Perris, it just that it doesn't have the resources for it. I believe there's potential, they just need the right guidance and the right resources and a lot of things will be accomplished. Definitely more activities for students to do, more structured activities that will allow them to focus on something like after-school programs, especially sports since that is what people are into. But academic programs as well because it can’t all be sports, you gotta do something with school. Definitely, they should clean it up a little, the dead dogs are a problem and the infrastructure is a little old, they should upgrade that a bit, like improved roads.
I HAD TO DEDICATE MYSELF TO THE SPORT
I remember the first mention of cross country in middle school right before moving on to high school. My PE teacher saw potential in my running and urged me to join my future high school's cross country team. I didn't know how big of an impact or how important Cross Country would be in my life. I decided to join and even attended a couple of practices during the summer. It didn't seem hard but then again I wasn't pushing myself.
Running had a huge impact. First of all, it kept me healthy. It gave me motivation because I like the competition so it was something to look forward to in class. I liked going to class, but sometimes it would get boring in some meaningless class that I had to take just to graduate. So having running to look forward to was something that made going to school actually enjoyable, because I got to hang out with my friends. Well not the first couple of years, but later on they joined and many of the friends I have now, I made because they were in Cross Country. Cross Country is like a second family. It was a great team to be in.
One of my first practices freshman year, I and the only other friend I had on the Cross Country team at time, had to run this run that we had never heard of. They went over it during the summer, but we weren’t really able to go to summer practices so we said, “Okay we need to follow the group if we don’t want to get lost on this run.” So we followed this senior who at the time was the fastest one on the team and he took us. We were up there with him because I don’t know, no one wanted to run or something. But we were in the front so we had to follow him because he was the only one that was in front of us. So we kept on going, but it was taking forever and the coach told us it was supposed to be a short run. We kept asking him “Are you sure you know where we are going?”, but he kept saying, “Yeah, yeah I’m a Senior, I’ve ran this several times,” so about an hour later, seven to eight miles after we finished the run, and it was a looong run, it was my first actual long run of about eight miles and we asked, “What did we just run?” It turned out it was a super extend version of what we were supposed to do.
That still stands out. He tried to mess with us because he was a senior; we were freshman and didn’t know what we were doing. I’m happy I kept up. That something I’m going to remember because it was really long and it was my first introduction to a real cross country practice. Maybe at the time I didn’t see it as beneficial. I wasn’t happy that he did it because he surprised us. But it was definitely a good experience. I appreciate what he did. It showed that we could push ourselves, that I could actually if I practiced get at that level that he was on competitively and actually win.
So fast forward a few weeks into the school year and several practices later, my first ever cross country meet was almost here. The coach made the team tryout for the varsity team. I narrowly squeezed into the last varsity spot. A few days later at the meet, I finally saw how competitive running could get. I still think back to that day because I came in dead last for the entire varsity race. Of course, I felt defeated and I felt unprepared, but I finally realized that if I wanted to compete, I had to dedicate myself to the sport. So after four years of mile upon mile, of excessive sweating, of injury, of pushing through pain and exhaustion, I finished one of the best parts of my life as one of the top ten runners in the league. All the hard work and time I put into cross country really paid off. Those four years of running helped me stay determined and taught me that you can push it at the finish line even if you think your too tired to push anymore. Cross country and the family it created has had one the biggest impacts on who I am today.
Who I am has been because of what has happened and how it happened. If there was anything I’d change, it would have to be to practice a little more because I know I didn’t really put in the effort during the weekends. If I had someone to run with during the weekends, it would’ve been different.
THEY WERE THE SUPPORT
A lot of teachers lent me their support. For example, my first AP teacher made going to AP fun, he made the program seem fun, that's where my academics came in, he was there, he was huge support even after I finished his class. He really prepared me well for his exam and future exams. Even after I finished his class, he’d be there with letters of recommendation and support. All my coaches as well, without their guidance I wouldn’t have really known what to do. It’s because of them I stuck with it. I wouldn’t say that they were perfectly organized or perfectly structured, but the structure and the organization that they gave me kept me in line to become the runner I became.
Also, my friends for all their support and they’re the reason why high school wasn’t boring, they made high school fun. They were the support, they were always there and especially on the runs, practice was so much better because of them. It was actually fun to go to practice, in the beginning we’d interact, in the end we’d hang out and in the middle it was all about practice. It was good practice. My girlfriend helped me in tough times, too.
Some students at UCLA are definitely more prepared than I am. They’ve had a lot more opportunities. I’m not saying I didn't have any, but the things they have been able to do thus far based on what they tell me is a lot more than I’ve accomplished. They are definitely more prepared, they’ve taken more of the classes that have prepared them to succeed here than I have taken. They’ve experienced doing internships before, like during high school, doing programs, summer programs that made them better candidates here. But it's all about hard work. I don't doubt they put their hard work in, but if I put my mind, effort, and hard work to it, we are definitely on the same level.
My parents are proud. Well I don’t think they’re proud that I’m here, but proud that I’m going to college. At school I was working the whole day in classes and at practice, but when I went home it was homework. It was like I was still in class. The only real difference was during the weekends, where I did nothing. I try to motivate my siblings to take AP classes because my parents never did [motivate them]. I’ve taken AP classes so they should take them because I know how beneficial they are. They don’t always listen, but the advice is there. I try to help them with like homework, like my parents were never able to help me out with homework, but I’m able to help them if they need the homework. Right now my goal is to finish college, to become the first college graduate in my family. After that I want to be a successful engineer. That’s the end goal. I’m doing it for me and my family. I know they worked hard to get me through school. I know they’d be proud to see the first college graduate in the family. As for me specifically I’d like to do something worthwhile in life.