UC Santa Cruz awards $20,000 scholarships to 11 community college transfer students

The University of California, Santa Cruz, is pleased to award scholarships to 11 dedicated community college transfer students who will enroll at UCSC this fall as recipients of Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards.

This year's recipients of the prestigious $20,000 scholarships include aspiring biologists and teachers, immigrants from Afghanistan and Hungary, and several students who are the first in their family to attend college.

"It is an honor to welcome these students to UCSC," said Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal. "Pister scholars are among the most dedicated of all students, and they set a high standard for their classmates."

The scholarships were established to help the most promising students from regional community colleges transfer to UCSC. 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.

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.

. Manija Ansari, Fremont; Mission College

. Bonnie Bea, Cupertino; De Anza College

. Richard Jesse Lynn Cathey, Pacific Grove; Monterey Peninsula College

. Silvia Cervantes, South San Francisco; Skyline College

. Krisztina Gode, Redwood City; Cañada College

. Edgar Marin, Watsonville; Cabrillo College

. Hugo Rafael Mora, South San Francisco; College of San Mateo

. Veronica Perez, San Jose; San Jose City College

. Benjamin Michael Tkacheff, San Jose; West Valley College

. Liset Vargas, Hollister; Gavilan College

. Jennifer Lorainne Yee, Salinas; Hartnell College

Manija Ansari, Fremont; Mission College

At the age of 14, Manija Ansari and her two younger brothers were smuggled out of Afghanistan to begin a new life in Germany. It was two years before they were reunited with their parents and two sisters. At the age of 19, she was the subject of an arranged marriage and came to the United States shortly thereafter. Today, as a Muslim woman, she is determined to pursue a degree in business management economics despite strong cultural prohibitions against women pursuing careers outside of nursing and teaching. Ansari has worked two part-time jobs to fund her education and has been an active member of the Mission College community. Her dream is to build a strong banking system in Afghanistan that will create jobs, stimulate foreign investment, and lift people out of poverty.

Bonnie Bea, Cupertino; De Anza College

A former foster youth, Bonnie Bea is a single parent juggling the responsibilities of family with work and education. She attributes much of her success to her involvement with the Independent Living Program, which prepares foster youth for emancipation. As an ILP facilitator, Bea shared her enthusiasm for higher education by helping many students apply to college. She also advocates for the needs of foster youth as a member of the Silicon Valley Children's Fund Youth Education Scholarship Advisory Committee. Bea plans to major in biochemistry at UCSC and pursue a career as a biomedical researcher. She is a member of the UCSC Page and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society, an organization that supports former foster youth.

Richard Jesse Lynn Cathey, Pacific Grove; Monterey Peninsula College

The first in his family to attend college, Richard Cathey has always loved science. At Monterey Peninsula College, his performance in organic chemistry led to a job as a supplemental instructor in the class. He plans to major in biochemistry and molecular biology at UCSC. Last summer, Cathey served as a research assistant in the UCSC environmental toxicology lab through ACCESS, a program for underrepresented students interested in biomedical science. Although he is planning for a career in research, he is keeping his options open after discovering a love of teaching through his work as a high school math tutor. Cathey works 32 hours a week as a security guard at Target.

Silvia Cervantes, South San Francisco; Skyline College

As a middle school student, Silvia Cervantes attended an after-school math and science club for girls at UCSF that sparked her interest in those subjects. Having avoided the life of violence and drugs that ensnared many of her peers, today she is an aspiring biologist and a campus leader. Cervantes is vice president of the Associated Students of Skyline College and a member of the College Council. She helped launch a new program called Making the Connection--Plug into College that helps make college a reality for local high school students. The daughter of Mexican immigrants who left school after sixth grade, Cervantes has pursued higher education without the benefit of family role models.

Krisztina Gode, Redwood City; Cañada College

Krisztina Gode and her young daughter arrived in the United States from Hungary four years ago, beginning a transformation that would include divorce, learning a new language, and life as a single parent. But Gode has excelled in all her endeavors, earning a 3.9 GPA and becoming an honor student while juggling work and parenting responsibilities, tutoring fellow students, and studying aikido. Gode will major in mathematics and plans to be a professor.

Edgar Marin, Watsonville; Cabrillo College

One of 15 children, Marin came to the United States from Mexico at the age of two. Throughout his childhood, he and his siblings worked in the fields before and after school, during spring break, and over summer vacation. A Watsonville High School graduate, Marin enrolled at Cabrillo and intended to transfer to a four-year university, but family responsibilities and his father's death in 2000 put his plans on hold as he worked two, and sometimes three, jobs to help pay the bills. Since enrolling as a re-entry student, Marin has been a role model for others, tutoring fellow students and sharing his personal experiences with migrant students and others who are struggling with school. An avid reader, aspiring author, and talented guitarist, Marin is a literature major who is considering a career in teaching or counseling.

Hugo Rafael Mora, South San Francisco; College of San Mateo

With interests in psychology and philosophy, Mora is fascinated by human behavior. His own childhood was marked by family struggles, frequent moves, and friendships with troublemakers and drug users. Mora was in juvenile hall when he picked up Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which sparked his motivation and helped him stick with his probation officer's plans for him to finish high school and enroll at the College of San Mateo. Through force of will, Mora changed his life, making new friends, sitting in the front of the class, and joining clubs and study groups. As president of Latinos Unidos and an active participant in many campus activities and organizations, Mora has discovered leadership skills that will help him achieve his goal of earning a Ph.D. and becoming a psychologist.

Veronica Perez, San Jose; San Jose City College

The daughter of immigrants who worked as custodians and cannery workers, Veronica Perez knows the sacrifices parents make for their children. Now, as the first woman in her family to attend college, Perez is juggling her studies with full-time work and the demands of raising two children. A high school dropout, Perez began taking college classes on a part-time basis in 2000 and looks forward to being a full-time student at UCSC. She plans to major in psychology with a minor in Latin American and Latino studies. She dreams of opening a safe house for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She is the office manager for Escuela Popular, a nonprofit organization and public K-12 charter school.

Benjamin Michael Tkacheff, San Jose; West Valley College

Benjamin Tkacheff is a computer science student drawn to UCSC's new major in video game design. An avid church member, Tkacheff has participated in several trips to Mexico to help build homes for the poor and has been a catalyst for several new youth programs at his church, including "hang-out" nights and music programs. He has played drums for eight years and recently started giving lessons.

Liset Vargas, Hollister; Gavilan College

An aspiring pharmacist, Liset Vargas has worked two jobs to put herself through school. She plans to major in biology at UCSC and looks forward to serving the Spanish-speaking community. The daughter of Mexican immigrants who didn't get beyond junior high school, Vargas has always been encouraged by her parents to attend college. At Gavilan, Vargas has been a tutor and mentor to her fellow students, and she helped develop a college club for students interested in careers in medicine.

Jennifer Lorainne Yee, Salinas; Hartnell College

As an instructional aide with the Monterey County Office of Education, Jennifer Yee worked one-on-one with special education students and discovered a strong interest in psychology. Financially independent since the age of 16, she began taking night classes at Hartnell two years after graduating from high school and recently switched to day classes to accelerate her education. Despite her busy schedule, Yee was the president of the Hartnell Christian Fellowship Club and a member of the Hartnell Physics Club. She plans to major in psychology at UCSC.