Entertainment Executive Inspires Teens to Succeed, Give Back

An entertainment industry executive is inspiring students in a Latino working-class suburb of El Monte to succeed in life without forgetting to give back.

Cris Abrego, co-CEO of Endemol Shine North America, which has produced a slew of successful reality television shows, says while he was climbing up the ladder of success, he saw few people he could relate to.

"I'd come to work and see no one who looked like me," Abrego said. "I think about my path to this chair and the number of times I didn't see anyone who looked like me."

Before joining Endemol shine, Abrego started his own company, which pioneered what was to become celeb-reality. But he says his path to success was an unlikely one.

While a student at Mountain View High school in El Monte, Abrego says felt he was not shown how to create goals beyond the city's boundaries.

That's what led him to write a book called "Make it Reality. Create Your Opportunity, Own Your Success."

He hopes it inspires young people to not let where they start in life determine where they end up. It's a message he often shares with students at his alma mater.

"There's a sense of pride because I think it gives you this edge, this toughness, this resilience, this ability to not be fearful and I love that," Abrego says of his upbringing. He says he hopes to help others "strive to move forward but not to forget to bring others with you."

Abrego is taking it a step further. Every year he awards a full, four-year college scholarship to one female and one male student athlete from his alma mater.

For Alma Zarate, who just finished her first year at UC Berkeley, the help came as a relief.

"It was like having another layer of stress off my back lifted, just not having to call my parents and say, 'I need money for this,' " Zarate said.

William Barrios is finishing his third year at the University of La Verne and says Abrego's support has also inspired him to move forward.

"The money is a great thing to have because school is super expensive but the whole moral support from behind it is great," Barrios said.

Zarate agrees the scholarship, which is named After Abrego's high school friend who died in a motorcycle accident, is all the more valuable because it comes from someone who knows how tough the transition can be and is willing and able to do more than write a check.

"They're just looking to have your best interests at heart," Zarate said.

For Abrego, it's a way to honor his childhood friend and his parents.

"You can leave and still bring El Monte with you," Abrego said. "You can go anywhere and do whatever you want."

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