by Sherry Hu and Christina Arce

(KPIX 5) — Every year, their faces stand out in the crowd – young, eager, and grateful.

In 2001, Enoc Lira was one of the new Students Rising Above scholars. He not only attended his first SRA gala, he was the keynote student speaker.

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

Enoc spoke of the importance of the opportunity to meet donors at the gala and “see that people wanted to see us do well in life.”

There was one donor in particular Enoc will never forget. She and her son drove him up to the event that evening.

Enoc remembered being asked, “What is it that you need for college? School supplies? Backpack?” To which Enoc smiled, recalling his response. “I said, ‘I need underwear,'” he laughed.

In the 15-plus years that followed, Enoc graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and became an engineer.

Back then, Enoc says only a dozen SRA students received scholarships, compared to the 100 now.

“We’re coming from the backgrounds we come from … in my case, broken home, alcoholism, abuse,” he said. “I had the will to succeed, I just didn’t know how to do it.”

Today, Enoc is an SRA mentor and a proud, paying, guest at the gala. “I try to give back, and anyway, I can just make the world a better place. I think everyone in the scholarship is like that,” he said. “To all the members of the gala – you’re producing positive role models, future leaders.”

Enoc added, “Before SRA, life was dark … it has changed my life. I have gotten to know that the world is a better place.”

The annual Students Rising Above Gala is on March 23rd. To learn more about the work SRA does, visit, then explore our Students Rising Above page to meet some more inspiring scholars.


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