Elizabeth Leon Receives A.J. Parker Memorial Award

Elizabeth began to study music in 5th grade at KIPP Academy. To challenge herself, she taught other struggling students and learned to play various woodwind and percussion instruments. She earned multiple summer music camp scholarships and a one-year scholarship to study with Dr. Riggs at Fresno State, where she learned the oboe.

Growing up working in the fields with her parents, until the age of 12 she lived in a two bedroom apartment with 20 people. She also faced the hardship of a tractor driving over her legs at age nine while working in the olive groves, but continued to attend school on crutches.

Her long-time teacher, Dr. Christine Montanez, describes Elizabeth’s initiative as “extraordinary” and notes her “hunger, humility and hard work coupled with her keen intelligence have elevated her to one of the finest students at ACEL.”

As a freshman at Big Picture High School, she found ways to attend music, anthropology, and archeology classes at City College. In April 2013, the Northern California Boys and Girls Club region recognized her as Youth of the Year.

Elizabeth is at University High School for her 2013-14 senior year and studying clarinet with Dr. Montanez’s own mentor while on the Fresno State campus. Elizabeth intends to attend and graduate from an Ivy League school as an engineer and also play clarinet at Carnegie Hall. Now she has her own clarinet for the journey.

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