UC Santa Cruz awards $20,000 scholarships to twelve regional transfer students

This spring marks the 10th consecutive year the University of California, Santa Cruz, has awarded $20,000 scholarships to talented community college transfer students. In September, 12 students will enroll at UCSC as recipients of Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards, a program created to foster the transfer of accomplished students who overcame adverse socioeconomic circumstances.

Recipients receive $10,000 scholarships for each of two years, as well as the support of a strong academic mentoring program and assistance finding paid summer work experience in a field that complements their studies.

"This visionary program, created by former UCSC Chancellor Karl S. Pister, has helped nearly 130 students pursue their dreams of a four-year degree," said UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood. "UCSC has had the honor of enrolling these students, who bring a commitment to community service and a depth of life experience to the university. It is a genuine pleasure to award these scholarships each spring."

The scholarship program recognizes students who have made a demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others, who have overcome adverse socioeconomic circumstances, and who might not otherwise be able to attend UCSC for financial reasons. Candidates are nominated by the presidents of each of 13 regional community colleges, and recipients are selected by the chancellor in consultation with the Leadership Opportunity Awards Program Screening Committee.

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 Lori Lee Avila of Palo Alto, Foothill College

o Kelly Leanne Bouyer of Marina, Monterey Peninsula College

o Janette Ceniceros of Campbell, West Valley College

o Maya Desiree Flores of Hollister, Gavilan College

o James Fraser of San Francisco, Cabrillo College

o Jacqueline L. Hunt of San Jose, Mission College

o Xuemei Li of San Mateo, College of San Mateo

o Joel-Henry J. Mansfield of Redwood City, Cañada College

o Morgan Lee Ney of San Jose, San Jose City College

o Naomi Sumiko Nobida of Salinas, Hartnell College

o Christina Narcisa Perez of San Jose, De Anza College

o Chi To of San Jose, Evergreen Valley College

Lori Lee Avila of Palo Alto, Foothill College: A member of Phi Theta Kappa and on the Dean's List since enrolling at Foothill College, Lori Lee Avila plans to study political science and advertising at UCSC on her way to a career in political advertising. Her interests include dance, sculpting, and volunteer work as a spokesperson for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFTBD), which provides textbooks on tape for those with dyslexia. Dyslexic herself, Avila received the 1999 national "Learning through Listening" award presented by RFTBD to graduating high school seniors. Avila tutors students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, and she volunteers with the Leukemia Society, the American Heart Foundation, the American Diabetes Foundation, and Thanksgiving Charities.

Kelly Leanne Bouyer of Marina, Monterey Peninsula College: A single mother putting herself through school, Kelly Bouyer has been president and vice president of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), on the Dean's List, a senator in student government where she served on multiple committees, a cheerleader, a member of the African American Student Union, and an active community volunteer and founder of the MPC Scholarship Club. Bouyer credits a difficult childhood with fueling her drive to succeed. Self-supporting since she moved out at the age of 16, she gave birth to her son at 20 and returned to MPC when he was four months old, determined, she wrote in her scholarship application, "to put my son and education first. . . . Struggling has taught me that I can either spend life pitying myself or I can work hard to overcome the tragedies that have plagued me. My losses have become fuel, driving me to succeed at my endeavors."

Janette Ceniceros of Campbell, West Valley College: An aspiring businesswoman with a passion for computers, Janette Ceniceros plans to major in information systems management and serve as a role model for other children of Mexican immigrants. Ceniceros says her own academic success (she has been on the Dean's List at West Valley College for two semesters and enrolled in the Honors Program) is due in large part to the support she received from the Puente Program, which helps underrepresented students succeed in higher education. As a Puente mentor helping support new students, Ceniceros is helping increase the retention rate and ease the transition for new college students. Fluent in English and Spanish, Ceniceros puts her bilingual skills to work as a part-time bank teller. Accepted to UCSC for this past winter quarter, Ceniceros delayed enrolling to help her family meet the 500-hour construction commitment that will enable them to move into a brand-new home built by Habitat for Humanity.

Maya Desiree Flores of Hollister, Gavilan College: An aspiring optometrist, Maya Desiree Flores juggles schoolwork with the responsibilities of parenting a 2-year-old daughter. The first in her family to attend college, Flores plans to major in biology. At Gavilan College, she tutors students in mathematics and chemistry. Flores is eager to be a role model for young Latinas, and she has participated in Gavilan's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Saturday Academy, which seeks to build interest in math and science among junior high school students by inviting them to participate with their parents in hands-on academic enrichment activities. A dedicated student, Flores is a member of Gavilan's Honor Society, Rho Alpha Mu, a chapter of Alpha Gamma Sigma, and she volunteers every week in an optometrist's office to gain work-related experience and to develop a relationship with a professional mentor.

James Fraser of San Francisco, Cabrillo College: For James Fraser, the path to higher education has been difficult. Fraser suffered a disabling on-the-job hand injury years ago and has held a string of low-paying jobs in a "hand-to-mouth" existence since then. Fraser, who enrolled at Cabrillo College as a re-entry student eager to pursue a career in social work or teaching, now boasts a 4.0 grade-point average and membership in Cabrillo's Honor Society. Fraser plans to major in community studies at UCSC. The father of a 14-year-old daughter, Fraser has at times done without in pursuit of his educational goals, living for months at a time in his car. He now volunteers at homeless shelters, knowing too well what life on the streets is like.

Jacqueline L. Hunt of San Jose, Mission College: Jacqueline Hunt has overcome severe obstacles in her pursuit of a college education, including an unsupportive family, alcoholic parents whose beatings forced her to move out at the age of 16, and brain damage caused by a head injury sustained during a brutal assault when she was in her early twenties. But Hunt, who described her recovery from the brain injury as "like being born as an adult with pieces missing," took charge of her own rehabilitation, checking out primary readers from the local library and starting over with grammar, math, and spelling. Shortly after enrolling in college in 1980, Hunt dropped out, ashamed of her learning disabilities. Since re-enrolling at Mission College, Hunt has held a near-constant spot on the Dean's Honor Roll, and she has been a dedicated tutor of international students. Her community service includes participation in the San Francisco AIDS Walk, weekly visits with the elderly, and volunteering with Pass the Torch, a supervised mentoring program at Mission College that helps students who are struggling with remedial subjects. She plans to major in psychology at UCSC and to pursue a career in the mental health field.

Xuemei Li of San Mateo, College of San Mateo: Xuemei Li came to the United States three years ago as the finance department manager of a Beijing-based real estate company. Since then, she has studied English and pursued a degree in computer and information science at the College of San Mateo (CSM). Li, who earned a finance degree at the China Finance Institute, has been a volunteer interpreter for King Trading, Inc., and did graphic design work for the Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. At CSM, she is a volunteer tutor in the college learning center. Now married to a UCSC alumnus, Li plans to pursue a career that uses information technology in business applications.

Joel-Henry J. Mansfield of Redwood City, Cañada College: The son of a Berkeley police officer, Joel-Henry Mansfield plans to major in legal studies at UCSC, attend law school, and become a prosecutor. A "straight A student," Mansfield is president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Cañada College, where he is also a student senator and on the Dean's List. He founded the campus literary club, The Literati, began a school newspaper, The Socratean, and organized a lecture series on North American folk culture and a poetry competition on campus. Mansfield tutors physically disabled students and non-native English speakers. An avid musician, Mansfield plays drums professionally and also shares his talents with schools and churches in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Morgan Lee Ney of San Jose, San Jose City College: An aspiring bioengineer, Morgan Ney has earned a 3.81 GPA at San Jose City College (SJCC) and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He shares his enthusiasm for math and science with students he tutors, and he has been a chemistry workshop leader at SJCC as well as a science instructor for Science Adventures in South Bay elementary schools. In 2001, Ney received SJCC's Wendlandt Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding chemistry student.

Naomi Sumiko Nobida of Salinas, Hartnell College: The mother of a 3-year-old boy, Naomi Nobida plans to major in biochemistry/molecular biology at UCSC on the road to medical school. At Hartnell College, Nobida has participated in the MESA and ACCESS tutoring programs, and she also led supplemental instruction sessions for introductory and general chemistry classes. During last year's Summer Research Institute, an eight-week residential program at UCSC, Nobida impressed her faculty adviser with her knack for lab work, her focus, and her motivation.

Christina Narcisa Perez of San Jose, De Anza College: Being a role model for her 7-year-old daughter motivates Christina Perez to pursue her dreams of a degree in sociology from UCSC, law school, and a career in the juvenile justice system. Perez grew up with an alcoholic mother and a drug-addicted father, and she was a 15-year-old gang member when her daughter was born. But becoming a mother and participating in the AmeriCorps National Service Network's City Year volunteer service program in 1996 changed her forever. She designed an intervention program for at-risk teens like herself, and the experience of helping others boosted her self-esteem, uncovered her talent for leadership, and helped her develop personal goals. She volunteered for three years as a rape crisis counselor for the YWCA, and in 1999 was hired by the San Jose Juvenile Probation Office as a youth gang specialist in the restorative justice program, where she designed a six-month curriculum for young offenders. That job inspired her to go back to school and pursue a career working with youth. Despite years of financial hardship as a working single mother and part-time student, Perez says her life experience has made her who she is. Now, Perez writes of her daughter with pride, "I see my determination in her eyes when she tells me she is going to go to college one day."

Chi To of San Jose, Evergreen Valley College: Writing computer programs is challenging and fun, but nothing compares to the "special feeling" Chi To gets when she tests a new program and it works. It's like learning to fly, she wrote in her scholarship application, and it gives her a great sense of satisfaction. To, who immigrated to this country from Vietnam in 1999 with her parents and brother, plans to major in computer science at UCSC. She has been active in the Student Life Involvement Council at Evergreen Valley College (EVC), the student advisory committee responsible for helping build a stronger sense of community on campus. She also tutors students in physics and mathematics. Despite the challenge of learning English as a 16-year-old immigrant, To graduated from high school with a 3.89 GPA and has maintained a 3.4 at EVC. To is the first in her family to attend college, and she brings a passionate commitment to her educational pursuits.