Don Diego awards $74,500 in college scholarships to 19 exceptional students
Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary year by awarding $74,500 in college scholarships to 19 high-achieving, altruistic, deserving students.
Propelled by scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $20,000, these future leaders of the community brim with promise, which they will fulfill at colleges close to home and around the country as they pursue worthwhile careers in fields such as business, biomed, film, conservation and agriculture – the core of the Foundation.
Don Diego Chair Juanita Hayes states, “The energy communicated in our finalist interviews was palpable, even on Zoom. All of us on the Selection Committee and entire board are impressed with the resilience of our Class of 2021 scholars. They persevered during the pandemic and excelled academically while participating in extracurricular activities, working to save money for their education, and giving back through community service. We are supremely confident that they will make the most of their scholarships and college experiences.”
Scholarships in the categories of FFA, Zable Foundation 4-H, Employee, Exhibitor/Participant and Junior Livestock Auction were offered to students who reside in the San Diego area and participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds. To mark this celebratory year, many scholarships are donor-funded.
Top two recipients
Edwin Vargas Navarro of Vista was the unanimous choice to win the one-time $20,000 Liss Family Scholarship covering four years of college. Edwin was the top FFA recipient and also received a $1,000 Junior Livestock Auction scholarship for a total of $21,000, which he will use to major in mathematics at what he calls “my dream school, University of California Berkeley.” Edwin’s accomplishments would fill a book. They include major FFA accolades, leadership roles in volunteer organizations, active participation in AFJROTC, a 4.5 GPA, and Track & Field Scholar-Athlete award. Edwin confides, “I am deeply appreciative of my immigrant parents’ sacrifices raising nine children, and want to show that the long hours my father worked in the strawberry fields were not in vain. My goals at Vista High were to never receive a grade lower than A, become president of multiple clubs, be a varsity athlete, run a 50-mile ultramarathon, and have fun!” This stellar student achieved every goal and earned high praise from his instructors, one of whom wrote, “Edwin is living proof that challenging life circumstances do not preclude excellence and success.”
Don Diego board member and Chair Emeritus Jon Liss says. “I am always impressed and inspired when I read the students’ applications, then meet and speak with them. Many have overcome significant difficulties in their young lives. Seeing Edwin receive the Liss Family Scholarship makes this year incredibly special. My family and I eagerly look forward to watching this amazing young man continue his run for success.”
Kylie Konyn of Escondido captured three competitive top scholarships: the $5,000 Zable Foundation 4-H; $3,500 William & Betty Ann Tulloch Junior Livestock Auction; and $5,000 Spanjian Family award. This self-described “lifetime 4-H member” and passionate agriculture ambassador who has attained numerous awards and honors is mulling her university choices; she plans to major in animal science on her way to earning an advanced degree in the veterinary or dairy science field. Kylie relates, “Dairy farming is in my blood, my desire and my future. I am a third-generation dairy farmer on one of the two remaining dairy farms in San Diego. I have developed my own herd and operate my own business. Knowing that, years ago, my father needed to leave college when he was a few units short of a degree to return to the farm makes me feel privileged to know I will receive a college education. I intend to contribute to the growth and utilization of genetic and nutritional information in the agriculture industry.”
Board member Glenn Drown, whose longtime ranching family funded the Tulloch Scholarship, says, “Kylie reflects both the past and future of our region’s rich agriculture tradition. She will do Don Diego proud.”
Other top tier recipients include:
Juancarlos Cigarrero of Solana Beach’s determination and strength of character were so impressive that he not only won the top $5,000 (board member) George & Patricia Karetas Employee Scholarship, but also received a $2,500 Special Award. He will use the $7,500 to major in business/sociology at San Diego State University. JC, as he is known, was an excellent student at Torrey Pines High. He played leadership roles in the Spanish Honor Society and the Recycling Club, and coached young soccer players, a sport at which he shines. In addition to working at the fair for two summers, JC worked 15-20 hours per week throughout the year. His strong work ethic emanates from his parents, JC says. “They work tirelessly doing manual labor with selflessness and tenacity. Being raised in a low-income household to immigrant parents motivated me to develop a ‘can-do’ attitude that guides my life. I am proud to be a first-generation college student and help break my family’s cycle of poverty. I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay my parents for the sacrifices they’ve made, but bringing home a college acceptance, graduate diploma and now these scholarships is the perfect first step in the biggest game of my life.”
Alexander Poroy of Encinitas says, “The (San Diego County) Fair has been a place where my life milestones occurred, beginning at age 10 when I was allowed to attend with my friends, no parents. I went on my first roller coaster, got my first taste of adult freedom, enjoyed my first concert and even had soft serve for the first time ever.” Alexander’s enthusiasm for the fair led him to enter the Student Showcase for Architectural Design, resulting in a first-place ribbon, a desire to someday build his own custom home, and a pathway to capture Don Diego’s top $5,000 Gerry & Jeannie Ranglas Exhibitor/Participant scholarship. Heralded by instructors as a gifted intellectual, Alexander attained a 4.56 GPA at San Dieguito Academy, placed at the top of AP exams, tutored, and actively participated in the Japanese Honor Society and varsity tennis team. While working at a local car dealership, he innovated and filled a social media position. Alexander says his participation in the Meaningful Entrepreneurship program catapulted his interest in making an impact on communities overlooked in the world. He explains, “This scholarship will help me immensely as I pursue an MBA and fulfill the potential that businesses have to change the world for the better.”
Rebecca Berquist of Poway received two scholarships funded by board members: the $2,500 Juanita Hayes FFA Scholarship and $2,500 Ecke Family Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship. She plans to continue her winning ways at Montana State University, where she will major in Agriculture Education on her way to becoming a high school agriculture teacher. Rebecca reveals, “I discovered through my activities that I have a natural ability to teach people. I work at a ranch teaching kids how to ride horses and I tutor through Poway High’s AVID program and on my own. Teaching agriculture is my true calling.” Her instructors agree, saying that Rebecca is an empathetic listener who is a friend to all and supports everyone around her. An academic standout, athlete, essay winner and all-around leader, Rebecca won Grand Champion for one of her pigs at the Ramona Junior Fair. The genuine champion is this hard-working young woman who has surmounted life challenges and approaches the world with energy, enthusiasm and optimism.
Other recipients by category:
Jamie Uribe, San Diego $2,500, San Diego State University, Business Administration
Samantha Coleman, San Diego, $1,500 (Board Member) Shewmaker Family Scholarship, School TBD, Psychology
Matthew Morse, Solana Beach, $1,000 (Executive Director) Mannen Family Scholarship, MiraCosta College, Liberal Arts
Elizabeth Hazard, Encinitas, $2,500, Colorado State University, Fish/Wildlife/Conservation Biology
Aiko Lozar, Carlsbad, $1,500, Chapman University, Film Production
Adelle Priest, Valley Center, $1,000, Brigham Young University, Environmental Science
Zable Foundation 4
Claire Fernandez, Carlsbad, $2,500, Colorado State University, Science
Leila Perko, Vista, $1,500, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Animal Science
Morgan Robinson, San Marcos, $1,000, Cal State University San Marcos, Business Administration
FFA & Junior Livestock Auction
Adelaide Sorbo, Ramona, $1,500 FFA & $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction, Texas A&M, Biomedical Engineering
Sydney Breese, Fallbrook, $1,000 FFA & $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction, California State University Chico, Agriculture Education/Science
Areli De Casas, Escondido, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction, University of California Riverside, Psychology
Kellsey McCaffree, Valley Center, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction, Palomar College, Animal Science
Alyssa Partner, Escondido, $1,000 Junior Livestock Auction, Modesto Junior College, Large Animal Veterinary Science
The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded $1,191,000 in scholarships to 298 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at www.dondiegoscholarship.org and www.facebook.com/DonDiegoScholarship. #30
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