News & Politics

Washingtonian of the Year 2015: Gorky Mikhail Velasco

Velasco, second from left, with kids he's mentored. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Every week, Gorky Mikhail Velasco meets with a high-school senior who wants to be first in the family to go to college. He mentors a group of younger kids in leadership skills. The management consultant volunteers with Edu-Futuro, a Virginia program that works with immigrants and their kids to make college a reality. Velasco came from Bolivia to Kansas at age 12 when his father enrolled in grad school, but even his educated parents had no idea how to help him negotiate high school or college. He marvels at the ambition of young people whose challenges are greater than his. In his first year of volunteering, he met an eighth-grader from Central America. “His mother cleaned houses,” Velasco recalls, “but he was determined to make a scholarship happen.” Edu-Futuro was created in 1998 by the ambassador of Bolivia and parents from that country who sought an academic-enrichment program for Latino kids in Arlington. Graduates have been admitted to MIT, Georgetown, and Yale, among others. Four recently got scholarships totaling $840,000-plus. Velasco says of the young people he mentors: “We help them get the confidence to see themselves in college. Seeing the transformation is the best part.”

This article appears in our January 2016 article of Washingtonian.