The Yuma University of Arizona Alumni Club has awarded $60,000 in scholarships to 37 high school seniors or junior college students heading to Tucson in the fall.
Since 1991, the Yuma Chapter has awarded over 500 scholarships worth $877,000 to Yuma youth. The club's goal is to become the first non-profit organization to award over $1 million in scholarships to local Yuman scholars.
The Yuma University of Arizona Alumni Club raises money “throughout the year with a number of different activities, and then they invite these incredible students to apply for the funds,” said Melinda Burke, president and executive director of the U of A Alumni Association.
“I think it is a remarkable display of community pride and a demonstration of their commitment to higher education.”
The scholarships were announced during a banquet held at the Yuma Civic Center April 30.
“We look for the best and the brightest, but 90 percent of our scholarship winners are in the top 10 percent of their class,” said Jeff Byrd, President of the Yuma University of Arizona Alumni Club, during the banquet.
“We offer scholarships to every person that is in the to five percent of their class, and tonight we've got four or five valedictorians, so we are really proud.”
The banquet was a “celebration of the past and the future,” Burke noted.
“These are alumni who want to share the kind of experience and the great education they had at the University of Arizona with these young adults who are just starting off in their careers. It is the quintessential pay it forward.”
What is most rewarding “is when you see these kids you gave a scholarship to 10 or 15 years ago come back as a doctor, lawyer or farmer, and watch them thrive because of the U of A experience,” Byrd continued.
The scholarships are even more essential now as the price of tuition and other costs associated with a college education continue to grow, Byrd said.
“Everybody knows how tough the economy has been since 2008, and I don't really see us coming out of it strong any time soon, so anything we can do to help promote getting the best and the brightest to the U of A, we are going to try. If there is a will there is a way. We want to be a facilitator to help them along the road.”
And whatever the amount, “these scholarships can really help defray the costs of education,” Burke added. “In most cases it doesn't cover the entire expense of going to school, but when you are able to put it together with other sources of financial aid, it can be a huge help to making that degree from that university a few hours from here a reality.”
Morgan Frank, a senior at Yuma Catholic High School with a 3.97 GPA, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship for 2013/2014 and an additional $2,000 for 2014/2015. She wants to become a pediatric oncology nurse, and said the money will help her achieve her goal.
“It will help me not be financially challenged. I won't have to worry about payback and all the student loans. I can just get right on track with my career goals and everything.”
She chose U of A because “it just seems like the best for me career-wise. They have an excellent nursing program. I am also excited because they have a university hospital associated with it, so that just makes it 10 times better.”
She expressed her gratitude to the alumni club for choosing her.
“It is just awesome the opportunity they are giving all kinds of students like me and everybody else here,” she said. “We are all really grateful.”
Joshua Owl, a senior at Yuma High School with a 3.883 GPA, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship in honor of Bobbi Olson. He wants to become a biomedical engineer and to “change the world” by helping to eradicate diabetes.
“My dad is a Native American and my mom is Hispanic, so throughout my lifetime I have had a lot of exposure to diabetes and other debilitating diseases,” he said, noting a close family member lost their leg to diabetes.
“I want to be able to make a difference and leave an impact. My whole dream is to eliminate debilitating diseases like diabetes to help not only my family but also the entire Native American community.”
Owl said he was honored to be chosen because the alumni club “is a community-based organization. It is more personalized and they actually take the time to interview you and acknowledge the people here.”
The scholarship recipients are heavily vetted before being chosen.
“They go through a pretty healthy written process to turn in their packet, and then we have an oral interview,” Byrd said. “It is the combination of the two in which we decide which students will be awarded the scholarships.”
Burke applauded the efforts it takes the Yuma University of Arizona Alumni Club to award the scholarships each year.
“They take the applications, they do written interviews and face-to-face interviews with every one of these students,” she said. “The commitment in my view is remarkable. They are absolutely Wildcats for life.”
List of scholarship recipients
• Robert Saldivar, Kofa High School, 3.804 GPA, majoring in biomedical engineering – $1,500 from Amigo Farms Scholarship. “I am determined to make a positive impact on the world and someday achieve a significant medical discovery,” Saldivar said.
• Kaelin Fox, Gila Ridge High School, 4.0 GPA, majoring in physiology – $1,500 from Cullison Farms Scholarship.
• Myungsu Son, Cibola High School, 3.744 GPA, majoring in economics – $1,500 from Gray and Terkelsen Scholarship.
• Leonardo Sanchez, Cibola, 3.6 GPA, majoring in political science and sociology – $1,000 from Griffin Ranches Scholarship.
• John Barczynski II, Yuma Catholic High School, 4.0 GPA, majoring in aerospace engineering and music – $1,500 from National Bank of Arizona Scholarship.
• Antashia Shuree Amick, Gila Ridge, 3.935 GPA, majoring in nursing – $1,500 from Women's Health Specialists Scholarships.
• Alyssa Noel Arviao, Kofa, 3.977 GPA, majoring in physiology, pre-med, public health, and psychology – $1,500 from YRMC Foundation Scholarship.
• Lavender Gee, Arizona Western College, 3.9 GPA, majoring in sustainable plant systems/food safety – $1,000 from Sam and Vinnie McElhaney Scholarship.
• Jose Ignacio Comparini La Roche, Yuma Catholic, 3.889 GPA, majoring in architecture – $1,000 from Dennis Family Scholarship. “As an architect, I want to expand the possibilities of living in an environment that will be self-sustainable, eco-friendly, and enjoyable for any family,” La Roche said.
• Rachel Sydney Pallack, Yuma High School, 3.665 GPA, majoring in engineering – $2,000 from Dennis Family Scholarship.
• Christine Rouff, YHS/AWC, 3.5 GPA, majoring in nursing and nutrition – $2,000 from Dennis Family Scholarship. “My parents worked very hard to instill... strong moral values, and an appreciation for education,” Rouff said. “It is a family tradition to be a Wildcat.”
• Morgan Caroline Frank, Yuma Catholic, 3.97 GPA, majoring in nursing – $2,500 for 2013/2014 and $2,000 for 2014/2015 from Cullison Scholarship.
• William Bradley Hardin, Gila Ridge, 3.837 GPA, majoring in business management – $2,500 from Cullison Scholarship.
• James Hernandez, Yuma Catholic, 4.0 GPA, majoring in electrical and computer engineering – $2,500 from Cullison Scholarship. “I believe that putting forth the maximum effort towards every element of life is an attribute that all successful people posses,” Hernandez said.
• Cameron Jon Smith, Yuma Catholic, 4.0 GPA, majoring in engineering – $2,500 from Cullison Scholarship.
• Simone Lalonde, Kofa, 3.953 GPA, majoring in microbiology and public health – $2,500 for 2013/2014 and $2,000 for 2014/2015 from Yuma Alumni Club Scholarships.
• Ralph Evans Jr., Yuma Catholic/AWC, 3.813 GPA, majoring in agriculture technology management – $2,000 in honor of Robert J. Moody.
• Jacqueline Fuentes, Kofa, 3.976 GPA, majoring in nursing – $2,000 in honor of John Wilhelmy.
• Ryan Hinrichs, Gila Ridge, 3.954 GPA, majoring in engineering – $2,500 in honor of J.R. Cullison. “The successful implementation of this project exemplifies my capabilities and provides evidence that I will have a highly prosperous and successful future in any career that I decide to pursue,” Hinrichs said.
• Stacey Ann Suarez Cham, Cibola, 3.888 GPA, majoring in nutritional sciences and physiology – $2,000 in honor of Ray and Ruth (McKale) Conway.
• Jennifer Tanaire Salazar, Gila Ridge, 4.25 GPA, first female Valedictorian at GRHS, majoring in physiology and/or economics – $2,000 in honor of Barbara Major. “As a young one, I have been encouraged to strive against the odds,” Salazar said.
• Joshua Owl, YHS, 3.883 GPA, majoring in biomedical engineering – $2,500 in honor of Bobbi Olson.
• Andrea Tiutan, Kofa, 3.75 GPA, majoring in business administration and Spanish linguistics – $1,000 from Sue Candrea Memorial.
• Karen Beltran, San Luis High School, 3.963 GPA, majoring in biology and pre-med – $1,000 from Glen Curtis Memorial. “After graduating, I want to come back to my community and establish a clinic,” she said.
• Kristen Cofske, Gila Ridge, 3.644 GPA, majoring in family studies – $1,000 from Yuma Alumni Club. “I know if I set my mind to anything, I can and will accomplish it,” Cofske said.
• Benito A. Gonzalez, San Luis, 3.98 GPA, majoring in civil engineering – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Estefania Cynthia Hurtado, San Luis, 3.94 GPA, majoring in nutritional science – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Sean Kenny, Gila Ridge, 3.438 GPA, majoring in engineering – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Segeun “Alex” Kim, Cibola, 3.851 GPA, majoring in pre-pharmacy and chemistry – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club. “Ever since I was a little kid, mixing substances was my favorite hobby of choice,” Kim said.
• Jesse James Land, Gila Ridge, 3.888 GPA, majoring in pre-med and chemistry – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Robert A. Marquez, San Luis, 3.820 GPA, majoring in criminal justice administration – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Alayna Naomi Meade, Gila Ridge, 4.0 GPA, majoring in studio art – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Brent Miller, Cibola, 3.813 GPA, majoring in mechanical engineering – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club. “If I don't understand something at first, I continue to work until I get it,” Miller said.
• Isabella “Bella” Porchas, Kofa, 3.902 GPA, majoring in musical theatre and creative writing – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club. “If all goes well in my college studies, I hope to then land a role on the Broadway stage and be able to allow others to experience the magic that is live theatre,” Porchas said.
• Jacey May Sims, Gila Ridge, 3.674 GPA, majoring in pharmacy – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club. “I've established multiple strengths that have aided me in becoming a more successful student and person,” Sims said.
• Amelia Sylvester, YHS, 3.883 GPA, majoring in engineering – $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.
• Esmeralda “Esme” Zaragoza, Yuma Catholic, 3.93 GPA, majoring in neuroscience and cognitives ciences - $1,000 from from Yuma Alumni Club.