UAV awards full scholarship to VIDA graduate

Sheriff Lee Baca presents Isaac Mendez-Candelario with a four-year scholarship to the University of Antelope Valley. The scholarship was awarded through a joint partnership between UAV and the Sheriff’s Department.

LANCASTER – Two years ago, Isaac Mendez-Candelario was making bad choices.

“I was only 16 and was a little trouble maker who thought life was just a joke,” Candelario said. “I was into graffiti.”

The teenager tagged his way through Palmdale; and by the time he was busted, he had racked up $20,000 worth of damages and a $1,200 ticket.

Then mom stepped in and forced her son into the Sheriff’s Department’s Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives (VIDA) program, a 16-week re-directional program for at-risk youth between the ages of 11 and 17.

Mendez-Candelario hugs his mother, Christina Mendez, at the ceremony. He credits his mother for his success.

“It was a tough love kind of thing,” said Christina Mendez. “I wanted the best for him.”

Her tough love worked.

Candelario not only completed the VIDA program, but he managed to pay off nearly $3,000 of his debt with the money he earned cutting grass, washing cars and recycling. He said he also learned valuable life lessons.

“VIDA taught me integrity and respect, basically how to be a man,” Candelario said. “It’s about doing the right thing even if no one is looking.”

For his hard work and dedication, Candelario was selected as the first recipient of a fully paid, four-year scholarship to the University of Antelope Valley. The scholarship was awarded through a joint partnership between UAV and the Sheriff’s Department.

“Isaac is making history,” said UAV CEO Sandra Johnson. “You are an example for all the children, your family and our community, and we applaud you for that.”

Johnson joined Sheriff Lee Baca, commanders from the Lancaster and Palmdale Stations, and VIDA deputies for a ceremony Tuesday to formally recognize Candelario for his achievement.

“You will be a great role model for the future, for other students who will come here,” Sheriff Baca said to Candelario. “I am just honored and pleased to share in your success today.”

At Tuesday’s ceremony, UAV officials also announced they will be awarding two bachelor program scholarships each year to VIDA graduates selected from the Antelope Valley.

VIDA will select graduates for the scholarship who continue to show positive progress after completing the program. Those interested in obtaining the scholarship will also need to meet certain GPA and community service requirements to qualify.

Scholarship recipient Isaac Mendez-Candelario and his mother, Christina Mendez.

“The VIDA program has always been about helping young men and women achieve their dreams. Earning a college degree is one of the aspirations many of our participants dreamed of, but never thought possible,” said Captain Robert Tubbs from the Community Oriented Policing Services Bureau. “The University of Antelope Valley’s partnership with us will now make some of those dreams a reality.”

“With the recent partnership we have secured with the University of Antelope Valley, the opportunities for the young men and women who graduate the program can continue well beyond high school,” said Lancaster Station Commander, Captain Robert Jonsen. “VIDA opens the door to endless possibilities, and I hope every participant takes full advantage of what the program has to offer.”

Candelario began his classes at UAV this week, and he’s majoring in criminal justice. He said he ultimately hopes to become a high ranking Naval officer. Candelario also hopes to inspire other VIDA participants.

“The VIDA program works,” Candelario said. “It helped me and I’m pretty sure it can help others too.”

“It’s an awesome program, and I recommend it to everybody who has had trouble with their children,” said Christina Mendez. “You can make one mistake in your life, but you can also turn around and make it positive, so I’m very proud of him.”

For more information about the VIDA program, visit or contact Lt. John Voza at 323-981-5300.

  16 comments for “UAV awards full scholarship to VIDA graduate

  1. christina
    August 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks everyone!!!

  2. S. Parker
    August 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    What a heartwarming story. This story has really made my day! Congratulations are in order to a fine young man. But the most important aspect of this story is how a mother’s love, or tough love rather, was able to make the difference between the right and the wrong path for this young man.

    Parents can learn from this example. The message here is: Don’t coddle your kids when they do wrong, but don’t your back on them either. Straighten them out by urging them into a different path. And love them unconditionally. Kudos to Isaac and his wonderful loving mother!!

  3. teshi
    August 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I think that this is a Great program, being able to help at risk youth change their life around, is better than seeing them back in the system. Giving a child a chance to do and be better is the best intervention a child can have!

  4. Matt K.
    August 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

    $20,000.00 worth of damage and a free ride to college?…Alrighty then. I don’t begrudge Mr. Mendez-Candelario of a chance to go to college and better himself. I am also happy he chose to turn his life around — HOWEVER — with that being said, I hope he realizes that there are people out there who never engage in vandalism and who do their best to get by with little means and they still never get a free ride to college.

    If you’re reading this, Mr. Mendez-Candelario, congratulations! Once you are through your program and have a degree or certification of some type, I hope you find it in you to get involved in the community and make a positive contribution. Maybe you could work with the City of Palmdale to help them prevent graffiti and other forms of vandalism.

    • christina
      August 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      as a matter of fact Matt, It’s all over his mind. He’s one step ahead.

    • really
      August 29, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Matt, do you think that his 20k of restitution goes away because he got a scholarship? He was held accountable and has done more than most kids his age would do to earn money to pay his debt. By him personally saying how much damage he did shows character, he stated in no uncertain terms what he did wrong, he didnt minimize it. For many kids they need guidance, if the community can set them straight it is a victory for us all. Law enforcement should be commended for investing in local youth when not many other people have the courage to do it. This is one scholarship that can be used to motivate kids to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Also Mr Candelario stated he hopes to work with the VIDA Deputies in the future to help give back.

      • Jacky Johnson
        August 29, 2012 at 10:53 pm

        Some kids have more to overcome than those kids who “do the right thing from the beginning.” And a kid that pulls himself out of a situation he has ALREADY fallen into is just as deserving of kudos, whether in scholarship form or some other acknowledgement, as any other person who has overcome the odds.
        Quite being so damn stingy. It’s almost like you want these children at risk to fail.

  5. Lando
    August 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm


  6. jeffk
    August 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    How about awarding 4 year scholarships to kids who aren’t screwups and never have been?

    • Christina
      August 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      I agree. The good kids work hard and the screwups get awarded. GO FIGURE!!

      • christina
        August 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

        Thanks “Christina & Jeff” but my son has always been a good kid with principle honor roll with perfect attendance. I was born and raised in Palmdale and I would be damned if my kids are going to distroy the city I live in. Unlike some ADULTS who act like children, I made him take full responsibility for his actions. I’m not a screw up, where’s my rewards???? I pay taxes and my college tuition just like a responsible person would!!!
        but like I said, Thanks for taking the time to think of my son and comment on his story. :)

    • really
      August 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      This kid made a mistake and seems to have learned from it. I dont think its fair to speak bad about UAV or the kid. Now if you wish to hold UAV to task for providing scholarships to kids who are model citizens and excellent students than I agree with you.

      • AVtime reader
        August 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

        Thumbs up! He deserved to get this awarded for his courage. These are other rewards for good kids too! BE POSITIVE!

    • teshi
      August 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      There are hundreds of programs for “non-screw-ups” this is something focused on “AT RISK YOUTH” which allows these children a chance to change their life around. I think we need more intervention programs and help for children who want to go to college, and who need help doing so.

      • sacryinshame
        August 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm

        At Risk Youth, should be a priority. I think the focus should be on prevention programs. Through a focus on prevention, maybe we wouldn’t need so much intervention. Intervention needs to happen the 1st time the kids get into trouble, not after they have been in camp or Juvenile Hall repeatedly.
        I applaud this young man and hope that he continues on his path to success. His Mother obviously loves him and has a good support group.
        According to the FBI Report on Gangs 2011, more and more gang members are going to school, infiltrating mainstream law enforcement, military, prison systems, city, county and state governments, court systems and etc, to pass on information to their gangs.

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