$20,000 scholarships help regional community college students transfer to UCSC

Twelve hardworking community college students are enrolling at UC Santa Cruz this fall with $20,000 scholarships that accompany the coveted Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Award.

This year's recipients from 12 regional colleges include a single mother described by her chemistry instructor as a "force of nature," an aspiring immigration and civil rights attorney, a re-entry student displaced by the high-tech industry, and a community volunteer honored by President Bush.

The scholarships were established to help the most promising students from regional community colleges transfer to UC Santa Cruz. All recipients receive a $10,000 scholarship 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. The program was designed by former UCSC Chancellor Karl S. Pister.

"I am proud to welcome these students to our campus," said Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal. "Their hard work and achievement is inspiring, and their diverse life experiences enrich the learning environment for everyone."

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.

. Joanna Bremser, Monterey; Monterey Peninsula College

. Joann Marie Collier, San Jose; Foothill College

. Dung Hanh Dao, San Jose; Mission College

. Ingrid Marie Gain, Boulder Creek; West Valley College

. Elizabeth Kamryn Hooshiar, San Mateo; Cañada College

. Lorena Lechuga, San Jose; Evergreen Valley College

. Leticia Judy Mendoza, San Jose; San Jose City College

. Karina Orocio, Redwood City; College of San Mateo

. Katrina Marie Scott, Salinas; Hartnell College

. Daniel Tostado, South San Francisco; Skyline College

. Lyssa Trujillo, San Jose; De Anza College

. Desireé Fay Yee, Santa Cruz; Cabrillo College

Joanna Bremser, Monterey; Monterey Peninsula College

Inspired by a trip to the lush forests of British Columbia, Bremser is a devoted environmentalist with an interest in sustainable agriculture. She plans to major in environmental studies with a focus on alternative agriculture. Bremser has volunteered with the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, where she learned about biointensive gardening, and she has taught composting workshops for Ecology Action and worked at Live Earth Farm. She has also volunteered with the Native Plant Society and taken courses in native medicinal herbs and permaculture design. Her interests stem in part from a suspicion that her mother's autoimmune illnesses could have been caused by exposure to DDT and other pesticides and herbicides in the Central Valley, where she grew up. Bremser was a student leader and a member of the honor society at Monterey Peninsula College.

Joann Marie Collier, San Jose; Foothill College

A sociology major, Collier takes a global view, recognizing that she is "one of the wealthiest people in the world, comparatively." A devoted humanitarian, she has made multiple trips to Baja California to help build homes for the poor. As part of a high school research project on poverty in developing countries, she raised more than $3,000 for orphanages in Romania and South Africa and for an organization in Mexico. Collier has been a Youth for Christ volunteer leader and a leader of her high school youth group. She is a regular volunteer at Heritage Home in San Jose, was on her high school volleyball team, and organized a venue for live music in San Jose. A natural leader, she is now assistant manager of the educational toy store where she has worked since the age of 14.

Dung Hanh Dao, San Jose; Mission College

A dean's list scholar, Dao is an aspiring electrical engineer who loves physics and mathematics. A first-generation immigrant, she came to this country from Vietnam after her father's death when she was 15, overcoming language and cultural barriers to succeed as a student and member of her community. She joined the Vietnamese Student Association at Evergreen College and then Mission College, where she was also on the staff of the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement program (MESA) and was a math and engineering tutor. She has participated in many science and math contests and won second place at the MESA Science and Engineering Fair in 2003. The eldest of three children, Dao is an active member of the Vietnamese Christian Community Church in Hayward and works as a sales clerk at the flea market on weekends to help her mother make ends meet without interfering with her school schedule. She was also captain of her high school soccer team.

Ingrid Marie Gain, Boulder Creek; West Valley College

Displaced by the high-tech industry when her job was moved overseas, Gain is a re-entry student who aspires to earn a degree in information systems management. Described by an instructor as "solution-oriented" and a "natural problem solver," Gain doesn't let obstacles hold her back: When budget cuts forced the cancellation of a French class, Gain organized her fellow classmates, hired a French tutor, and created a lesson plan that enabled the class to continue their studies, completing five units in six weeks and meeting the prerequisite for the next level of instruction. Proud of her heritage, Gain helped build a Chumash tomol, or redwood-planked boat like those used by her ancestors, of native materials, including tar from the ocean and pine pitch.

Elizabeth Kamryn Hooshiar, San Mateo; Cañada College

Referred to by instructors as "the student we all love to teach," Hooshiar takes a full course load and works full-time as a legal secretary. She plans to major in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC to pursue her longtime interest in the conservation of natural resources. After an unsuccessful first year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Hooshiar took time off before enrolling at Cañada College, where she identified her academic goals, applied herself, and made the dean's list. At Cañada, Hooshiar participated in the Pre-health Club and the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement program (MESA). In addition, she has mentored homeless children and incarcerated teenagers, advocated on behalf of children in foster care through the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA), volunteered with Save the Bay's habitat restoration program, and participated in Job's Daughters, a statewide youth group for young women.

Lorena Lechuga, San Jose; Evergreen Valley College

Lechuga grew up in a crowded trailer park on the east side of San Jose where drugs, prostitution, gangs, and homicide were all too familiar. But her parents impressed upon her the importance of education, and Lechuga is well on her way. Lechuga has worked with Fiesta Educativa to advocate for the rights of disabled children and their families. As vice president of Enlace Student Association at Evergreen Valley College, she helped feed the homeless on Christmas, made bag lunches for migrant workers, and raised funds for student scholarships. In 2005, she was honored by President Bush for completing more than 100 hours of community service in a calendar year. After attending the national conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, she worked to establish a student chapter at Evergreen. She plans to major in environmental studies.

Leticia Judy Mendoza, San Jose; San Jose City College

Through the Service Learning Program at San Jose City College, Mendoza has participated in a Mental Health Forum and volunteered at a San Jose family shelter for the homeless as well as the Emergency Housing Consortium. Helping to feed the hungry and teaching computer skills to residents gave Mendoza a satisfying sense of community involvement. She was also an officer in the Associated Students organization, and she was a summer intern for Congressman Mike Honda in 2005. Since her mother died two years ago, Mendoza has been the primary caregiver for her 86-year-old father. She plans to major in politics.

Karina Orocio, Redwood City; College of San Mateo

Orocio plans to major in politics and Latin American and Latino studies on her way to becoming an immigration and civil rights attorney. Born in Mexico, Orocio came to the United States 10 years ago at the age of 11. The first in her family to attend college, Orocio was an active student at College of San Mateo, serving as senator and vice president of the student body and as secretary of Extended Opportunity Programs and Services. She cofounded and served as president of the Latinos Unidos Club, which organized events such as Raza Day, Cinco de Mayo, and outreach activities that targeted local high school students. She was a member of the Aztec Dance group and was a key organizer of "Noche Caliente," a community event that showcased Latin American culture, and she tutored at the Boys and Girls Club and College Track, an after-school program that helps minorities and poor students prepare for college. She also volunteered at La Raza Centro Legal in San Francisco and the Community Legal Center in East Palo Alto affiliated with Stanford University Law School.

Katrina Marie Scott, Salinas; Hartnell College

A psychology major, Scott has made volunteering part of her life since fifth grade, when she helped her teachers over summer vacation. In high school, she participated in a conflict resolution program and helped found Viking Arch, a school-based antidiscrimination organization. As president, she helped secure the administration's approval for the drama department's production of The Laramie Project, the most controversial production ever allowed by the school. She also volunteered at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, racking up the second-highest number of volunteer hours in her class. At Hartnell, she worked as a note taker for disabled students. Scott gained valuable leadership experience through sports, playing basketball, football, and baseball. She hopes to become a counseling psychologist.

Daniel Tostado, South San Francisco; Skyline College

Growing up in a high-crime neighborhood where selling drugs, tagging walls, and stealing cars were common, Tostado says "staying out of trouble is what got me into trouble." Considered an outcast, Tostado said he had to "literally fight my way home" every day after school. At Skyline, Tostado discovered his cultural roots and began to understand the issues Latinos face, such as poverty and inequity in schooling. Empowered by his education, Tostado now describes himself as a "huge sponge" eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible. An active community member, Tostado was president of the Latin American Student Organization at Skyline and helped establish the Minority Student Alliance Conference to link minority high school students with their peers in higher education. As a student ambassador, he reaches out to high school students and wrote in his scholarship application that "If I can inspire one student to believe that he/she can take part in higher education then I have made a difference. Having students tell me that my story has changed the way they view life is an indescribable sensation." He is also a member of a gang prevention committee established by the South San Francisco police chief and others, a tutor, a clinic volunteer, and an accomplished baseball player. He plans to be a professor.

Lyssa Trujillo, San Jose; De Anza College

A psychology major, Trujillo is considering a career in social work, counseling, or as a youth advocate. Unfortunately, she knows firsthand the challenges of mental illness: her mother is bipolar, an alcoholic, and a substance abuser. Trujillo, the eldest of three children in her family, was forced to grow up too soon until the children were finally placed in foster care when Trujillo was 16. Despite the challenges in her life, Trujillo is determined to be the first in her family to earn a college degree and has tapped networks that support her personal and academic goals. She has received Youth Education Scholarships (YES) for emancipated foster youth from the Silicon Valley Children's Fund, as well as support from the Santa Clara County Independent Living Program. The Education Mentorship Program provided a mentor, and Trujillo has been an active member of UCSC's Page and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society and the Renaissance Scholars Program, which provide financial support and academic guidance for emancipated foster youth. As a research assistant with the Ceres Policy Research Group, Trujillo is exploring ways to improve outreach to foster youth.

Desireé Fay Yee, Santa Cruz; Cabrillo College

The single parent of an 8-year-old son, Yee plans to double major in biochemistry and molecular, cell, and developmental biology. Described by her chemistry instructor as a "force of nature," Yee discovered her love of biology at Cabrillo, where she shared her enthusiasm for science with fellow students as a supplemental instructor in Biology 1B. She helped establish an organic chemistry club on campus and participated in UCSC's eight-week Summer Research Institute through the ACCESS program. At UCSC, Yee was introduced to biochemistry and molecular biology and had an opportunity to gain valuable laboratory experience. After college, she would like to conduct research at the graduate level or apply to medical school.