Ambitious students land scholarships

DOWNEY - Six students from Columbus, Downey and Warren High Schools were awarded $1,000 scholarships by the Optimist Club of Downey last Thursday at the club's annual scholarship luncheon at the Rio Hondo Event Center. Scholarship committee chair Beverly Mathis, assisted by committee member Patricia Kotze-Ramos, announced the scholarships, which were awarded to Evelin Tamayo of Columbus High School; Gregory Rodriguez of Downey High School; and Robert Duarte, Jr., Karina Figueroa, Isaac Medina and Edgar Villaruel of Warren High School.

The Optimist Club of Downey traditionally awards a total of three scholarships, one to a senior at each of the three Downey High Schools. "But this year, to recognize the extraordinary community service provided by students from Warren High School's Humanitarian Society, we added three additional scholarships," said Optimist Club President and former Downey mayor Meredith Perkins.

"These students have given outstanding service to the community and the Optimist Club during their four years of high school," he added.

"While it might seem like an overwhelming task to review more than 125 scholarship applications and interview more than 20 students, the difficult part was narrowing the selection, because there were so many deserving candidates," Bev said.

"The sutdent candidates are for the most part very focused and decisive in their career choices and their goals, and it is a rewarding experience to learn the excellence of each student," she said.

Here, in their own words, are brief comments from the honorees:

"I am the oldest of my siblings and the first to graduate, and this means a lot to me and my parents." said Evelin Tamayo, who served this year as treasurer of the Columbus High student council. "My goal is to work in a public school as a teacher's assistant, because it is my passion to work with kids. I believe it is very important for children to have someone they can trust and receive help from, and I really want to be that person. I am going to be the one who can inspire them to make their dreams come true."

"I plan on being a firefighter, and Rio Hondo College has the best program to help me reach my goal," said Gregory Rodriguez of Downey High, who was a member of the football and track teams. "I give credit to my parents for always pushing me to do well in school and making me strive to go to college. They are proud to see that I am going to college, not just for me, but for them, too. When I become a firefighter I will be looked upon as a hero and a role model to children."

"I have dreamt of saying 'Your honor, my client is innocent!' in a court of law since I was 15," said Robert Duarte, Jr. , who served as Vice President of the Warren High Humanitarian Society this year and participated in many other extracurricular activities during his high school career. "I expect to become a lawyer, and to practice patent law, because if a person has an idea to revolutionize the world, then they should have the right to protect their idea," he said.

"When I took a Medical Terminology course, I found that I was very interested in what happens to the human body, especially about the female body and childbirth," said Karina Figueroa of Warren High. "That's when I decided that I wanted be a doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology." Karina overcame her natural shyness to make her high school drill team and varsity cheer team. "I was able to gain a lot more confidence in myself and now I have the confidence to dance, perform or speak out in front of many people. All the clubs and opportunities Warren has offered me are allowing me to get closer to reaching the goals that I have set for myself, " she said.

"Uninsured people in our own country, including my own family, need affordable doctors, and that is precisely why I want to go to medical school," said Warren High's Isaac Medina, who served as an officer of the Humanitarian Society for the last four years, including as president since 2010. He has also been honored with more than a dozen major awards. "My sincerest desire is to attend a competitive university where I can continue to mold myself intellectually. There is an undeniable need for caring medical professionals who are willing to help those in need. I intend to be one of those people."

"In my three years of volunteer experience at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, seeing the patients grow has inspired me," said Edgar Villaruel of Warren High School, who has been a stalwart member of the tennis team and secretary of the Humanitarian Society. A winner of a dozen awards during his high school career, Edgar is planning to attend college, then serve in the U.S. Air Force before becoming a physical therapist.

"I want to gain the knowledge to be able to assist someone who is paralyzed to walk again or help someone to read after a tragic accident. Nothing stops Rancho's patients from still living their dreams. Nothing is going to stop me from becoming a physical therapist," he said.

"It's such a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet these very special high school seniors, whose scholarship and citizenship exemplify everything one would hope to see in those who are moving on to college," Bev said.

Meredith agreed. "We are very proud to honor these six tremendous high school seniors, whose accomplishments, dreams and determination are an inspiration. I know our nation's future is in very good hands with exceptional young people such as our Optimist scholarship honorees leading the way!"

********** Published: May 31, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 07