In a joyful rite of spring, the University of California, Santa Cruz, has selected 12 regional community college students who will receive $20,000 scholarships to enroll at the university this fall.

This year's recipients of the Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards include

single parents, immigrants from Mexico and Vietnam, and re-entry students.

The awards recognize talented students who have overcome adverse socioeconomic circumstances, have a demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others, and who might not otherwise be able to attend UCSC for financial reasons. Recipients receive $10,000 scholarships for each of two years, as well as the support of a strong academic mentoring program and assistance finding summer work experience in a field that complements their studies.

"This scholarship program opens doors to some of the most academically talented and determined students who enroll at UCSC each year, and I am proud to welcome them to our campus," said UCSC Chancellor Denice D. Denton. "Their contributions enrich our student community, and their achievements inspire us all."

The presidents of 13 regional community colleges each nominate several students, and recipients are selected by Denton in consultation with the Leadership Opportunity Awards Screening Committee. The program was established in 1993 by former UCSC Chancellor Karl S. Pister to foster the transfer of accomplished community college students to UCSC.

A list of this year's recipients follows, with hometowns and college affiliations. Biographical information about each recipient is also available below. For more information about the scholarship program or any of the recipients, call the UCSC Public Information Office at (831) 459-2495.

o Eytihia Arges, Los Gatos; Foothill College

o Cole Berry, Aptos; Cabrillo College

o Yonathan Essaw, San Jose; San Jose City College

o Maria Gutiérrez, San Jose; Evergreen Valley College

o Don Ha, San Jose; Mission College

o Victor Hernandez, San Jose; West Valley College

o Angelica Jimenez, Castroville; Hartnell College

o Rebecca Johanson, Sunnyvale; De Anza College

o Patricia Lopez, San Mateo; College of San Mateo

o Paloma Martinez, San Carlos; Cañada College

o Domingo Payne, Gilroy; Gavilan College

o Erin Sullivan, Monterey; Monterey Peninsula College

Biographical details about the recipients

o Eytihia Arges, Los Gatos; Foothill College

The first in her family to attend college, Eytihia Arges, 32, is the daughter of Greek immigrants. A dedicated volunteer, she has donated her services in web development, graphic design, layout, and marketing to numerous organizations. During the 2003 holiday season, Arges took family portraits of needy single mothers and their children. She is a volunteer instructor with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, a leadership organization for youth. She plans to double-major in politics and film & digital media.

o Cole Berry, Aptos; Cabrillo College

With a 4.0 GPA, Cole Berry has excelled at Cabrillo College. As a drummer and percussionist, he has performed with the Cabrillo College Latin Music Ensemble and other groups. A native of Redding, California, Berry, 19, intends to major in history and minor in jazz music performance. He plans to be a teacher.

o Yonathan Essaw, San Jose; San Jose City College

Yonathan Essaw emigrated from Ethiopia with his family in 1998 and learned English quickly enough to graduate from high school in three years. He was president of Students United for Medicine, whose members volunteer in local clinics and visit high schools to promote health awareness. He has also volunteered with the Second Harvest Food Bank and the San Jose Emergency Housing Consortium. He is a member of the Ethiopian Student Union and the Black Student Union. Essaw has participated in the Bridges Program for minorities interested in biology, and he conducted research on Vitamin D receptors in the biochemistry program of San Jose State University. He plans to major in biology.

o Maria Gutiérrez, San Jose; Evergreen Valley College

A single mother of three children, Gutiérrez was in the Honors Program at Evergreen, where she tutored fellow students in chemistry and mathematics. She has embraced her Aztec heritage and credits it with helping her find balance in her life. She joined the South Bay Geo-Diversity Project, an NSF-funded initiative based at San Jose State University that encourages underrepresented students to explore Earth science education and research, and helped develop educational materials for use at Henry W. Coe State Park. Gutiérrez plans to major in Earth sciences.

o Don Ha, San Jose; Mission College

A 1986 graduate of high school in his native Vietnam, Ha came to the United States in 2001 as part of a humanitarian program for Vietnamese victims of the war. Enrolling in school in 2002 at the age of 35 was a struggle, but Ha learned English and became active in the Vietnamese Student Association and the Fantastic Toastmasters Club. In Vietnam, Ha volunteered with a literacy project, helping Vietnamese children learn to read. He plans to major in biochemistry.

o Victor Hernandez, San Jose; West Valley College

Victor Hernandez, 54, is a re-entry student who returned to college after a 25-year career in Silicon Valley. As an intern with the Santa Clara County Department of Correction, Hernandez developed systems to record and track information needed by rehabilitation officers who write progress reports and treatment plans for inmates, facilitating the evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of rehab treatment programs administered by the department. Hernandez plans to major in education or psychology with a minor in computer information system management.

o Angelica Jimenez, Castroville; Hartnell College

Angelica Jimenez was admitted to UCSC after high school but had to change her plans when her mother became ill. She enrolled at Hartnell, where she made the Dean's List for two years despite working 40 hours a week. The first in her family to go to college, Jimenez is a role model for her sister and other relatives. She is an active member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Amnesty International. Jimenez intends to major in sociology and minor in psychology. She plans to be a social worker or school guidance counselor.

o Rebecca Johanson, Sunnyvale; De Anza College

During a trip to Mexico at the age of 15, Johanson was so moved by the poverty she saw that she vowed to return. During subsequent trips to Mexico and South America, Johanson has helped vaccinate children against disease. Closer to home, she was a founding member of Saltworks Christian Fellowship and volunteered with Angel Tree to buy and distribute Christmas gifts to the children of inmates. At De Anza, Johanson tutored history, founded a fencing club, and was elected to the student senate in 2003, serving as vice president of student rights and services and chairing several committees. She is also on the board of directors of Never Cry Wolf Rescue and Adoption, a nonprofit dedicated to the rescue of wolves. She has a fourth-degree black belt in martial arts. Johanson plans to major in anthropology.

o Patricia Lopez, San Mateo; College of San Mateo

A full-time graphic designer, Patricia Lopez, 31, has juggled work and school since enrolling at the College of San Mateo. She is a member of the K-12 committee of the National Association of Chicana/Chicano Studies, and she volunteers her time for Craigslist Foundation, which sponsors an annual showcase of nonprofit organizations. Lopez plans to major in psychology and become a youth guidance counselor.

o Paloma Martinez, San Carlos; Cañada College

A native of Mexico, Martinez first enrolled at Cañada College in the English as a Second Language Program, but she quickly became involved in further academic and extracurricular activities. An aspiring filmmaker, Martinez is the secretary and treasurer of the Political Awareness Club, secretary of the Associated Students of Cañada College, vice president of scholarships for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and a member of the Latin American Friendship Club. Martinez intends to be a film major at UCSC.

o Domingo Payne, Gilroy; Gavilan College

The father of five, Domingo Payne says his children motivate him to excel. His academic counselor at Gavilan calls him a "natural leader." Whatever the source of his determination, Payne's accomplishments are evident in his service as president of the Gavilan Associated Student Body, founder and president of the Gavilan Chess Club, cofounder of the "Friction" Literary Club, and cofounder of the Men's Academic Network Organization (MANO), formed to address declining retention rates among Hispanic men at Gavilan. He is also a member of the Rho Alphu Mu Honor Society. Payne plans to major in literature and hopes to teach at the college level.

o Erin Sullivan, Monterey; Monterey Peninsula College

Erin Sullivan became a single mother at the age of 18, an experience that shaped her life but hasn't kept her from pursuing a college education or being involved with extracurricular activities. Sullivan is president of the Parent Advisory Committee of the Monterey Peninsula College Children's Center, was appointed senator of the Associated Student Body, and served as a chemistry tutor. Sullivan maintained a high GPA and was active in the MPC Honor Society while working part-time to support herself and her 4-year-old son. She plans to major in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC.