Club Honors 27 with Mukai Scholarships

In this year of uncertainty, the Club expands the Joannie Mukai Scholarship Program to honor 27.

The Club is pleased to announce the winners of the Club’s annual Joannie Mukai Scholarship Program for 2020. An increased total – 27 – of Club Members and their relatives have been awarded stipends. More than 130 students applied, a record.

The Club’s Scholarship program was named for the late Joannie Mukai, the former Club Board Member and Harbor retiree who passed away in 2010. This is the tenth anniversary of her death.

“The Club is honored to award these incredible young people,” said John Hawkins, Club CEO. “We are pleased to award as many as we could in this year of so much uncertainty. The Club wants to encourage everyone to keep going and follow your dreams.

“The Club’s scholarship committee and I wish all the success in the world to these awesome people, and to all those who applied. Keep working hard, keep achieving … the world depends on you.”

Those eligible included Club Members, their spouses and their children who are in college full-time or will be attending an accredited college or university in Fall 2020. Because of the uncertainty of schools reopening this fall, this year the Club added a stipulation that those applying needed to only have been accepted to a full-time college or university for the fall, in case the school itself remains closed.

Congratulations to the awardees, and the Club wishes the best success to all those who applied.


Joannie Mukai was a pioneer as the LA Port’s Director of Construction and Maintenance. A passionate supporter in the Employees Club and longtime Club Insurance Board Member, she died in March 2010. The Club’s annual scholarship program was named in her honor. “She believed in education and training, and in preparing for success,” Club CEO John Hawkins said. “That’s what the Club Scholarship is all about, and we’re delighted to name it after her. It’s a perfect way to keep her memory alive.”


Recipients of a $500 Joannie Mukai Scholarship

Tiffany Acevedo

Daughter of Nelson Acevedo,
Los Angeles Unified School District.

Tiffany plans to attend Cal State Northridge in the fall.

Tiffany’s parents grew up in El Salvador and showed Tiffany that “if you want to achieve something, you have to work hard for it.”

Throughout high school, Tiffany joined many extracurricular activities and was a cheerleader for all four years, becoming captain of the team. She also worked at beach cleanups and AIDS walks.

“I would see my mom struggle to pay for our doctors and dentist appointments,” Tiffany wrote. “Going to the dentist was hard for me since I never really had straight teeth, so my parents saved money from their paychecks so I could get braces.” These visits were instrumental in Tiffany wanting to become a dentist and “be the person who makes a change in people.”

Jalen Alavarado

Son of Jelonnie Alavarado, DWP, City of Los Angeles.

Jalen plans to attend California Baptist University in Riverside in the fall.

“I will be studying for a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering,” Jalen writes. “I am going to get this degree not only for me but also for my parents, as neither of them got a chance to get a Bachelor’s degree after having me.

“One day I hope to help design the cars of the future,” he writes. “Having built my own ’95 Cadillac Fleetwood from a junk car, I have a strong passion and interest in automobiles. I think my career will be better spent on improving the lives of car enthusiasts. To be able to put something out into the world that I made, and that I am proud of, is the best feeling ever for me.”

Levit Arias

Levit is related to Maria Carr, Dep. of Mental Health,
Los Angeles County.

Levit plans to attend UCLA in the fall.

Levit struggled after his friend was murdered in a case of gang violence and mistaken identity, but his friend’s death led him to pursue a hobby in writing and influenced his choice of major in Chicanx/Latinx studies. “I was introduced to this field through Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which highlights the dire effects of being viewed as inferior, incapable of learning, and unproductive for being Chicanx or Latinx.”

Levit joined the Los Angeles Mayor’s Youth Council in high school. “I lobbied congressional representatives and organized with students to increase voting trends in low-income communities.” Community college has prepared him for his upper-division courses. “I aspire to become a judge and to educate individuals on the communities they are serving and provide fair verdicts and representation for underserved communities.”

Kyleigh Austin

Daughter of Wendell K. Austin,
Dept. of State Hospitals, State of California.

Kyleigh plans to attend Cuesta College in the fall.

Kyleigh started the first National Arts Honor Society Club at Templeton High. “We are part of a national network that raises awareness on the importance of art and does local activities to stimulate the community’s creativity,” she writes. “This club was started by my friend Lily and me and will continue to grow in the years to follow.” Kyleigh also completed 12 units of college classes while in high school.

“I plan to get a phlebotomy certification and two degrees, one general and one in health education.” Kyleigh wants to “be a phlebotomist for a few years before going back to college and getting my nursing degree. I want to travel and go where my skills are needed so I’ll become a traveling nurse.”

Carlos Callejo

Son of Carlos Callejo, DWP, City of Los Angeles.

Carlos plans to continue studying at Cal Poly Pomona in the fall.

Carlos plans to be an educator, as his mother is a public school teacher. But he’s also interested in arts and music. “For my high school senior project, I painted a mural with my grandfather, a well-known muralist who has had his art all over the southwest.

“One objective in my life is to help other people through the path of education,” he continues. “My tio, George, was an immigration lawyer for more than 30 years. He fought for the less fortunate and oftentimes he would waive fees because he knew the people he served could not afford it. He, alongside my mother, taught me the value of selflessness and empathy for my fellow human beings.”

Hector Casteneda

Son of Hector Castaneda, CHP, State of California.

Hector is in his third year of studies at U.C. Irvine.

“I have always had a love for space and its mystery,” he writes. “My curiosity and hunger for answers led me to want to study astrophysics.”

Being at UC Irvine has provided Hector with the chance to give back to the community, mentoring and tutoring younger students in STEM-related fields. “MATH CEO and Craft a Scientist are two organizations that I am proud to be a part of, and I am able to help inspire students to get excited about STEM.

“My goal is to work for a space agency such as SpaceX, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), or even the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Specifically, I would like to work towards becoming an astronaut for one of these space agencies.”

Bianca Castro

Daughter of Gabriel Castro, Caltrans, State of California.

Bianca is a junior at Cal State University Bakersfield.

Bianca is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in human biology. “I have finished most of the academic prerequisites: organic and biochemistry, psychology, anatomy, and physiology, to name a few. These courses have assisted me to gain profound knowledge in the sciences.”

Bianca’s biggest accomplishment is “serving my country ­– I enlisted in the Army National Guard at 22 and I am currently serving my eight-year contract.” Bianca is enrolled in two summer courses at CSUB and has set herself the goal of graduating in Fall 2020 and using her G.I Bill to pursue her Master’s degree. She is “looking for a Master’s program to help me achieve my goal of becoming a physician assistant.”

Alex Facio

Alex is related to Club Member Brian Podolsky,
Retired, Transportation, City of Los Angeles.

Alex plans to study at UC Riverside this fall.

Alex was accepted to New York University’s (NYU) Shanghai campus, but has decided to study locally because of coronavirus. His career goal is to become an anesthesiologist.

Alex skipped grades in elementary school, started high school at 12, and already holds three Associate’s degrees in liberal arts, mathematics, and math and science). “In high school, I volunteered at the elementary school as a sixth grade math/English tutor,” he writes. “In the four years that I tutored the students, their common core scores increased from ‘below standard’ to ‘standard met,’ which was a huge improvement.”

Alex was involved in his community college’s pre-medical organization, where he was the club’s treasurer. “We created a pathway for pre-med students to volunteer at our local hospital, where they gained valuable experience.”

Ryan Facio

Ryan is related to Club Member Brian Podolsky,
Retired, Transportation, City of Los Angeles.

Ryan plans to study at UC Riverside this fall.

Ryan was accepted to Humboldt State University near Sacramento, but plans to continue his education at UC Riverside due to COVID-19. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in international relations and political science, Ryan plans to attend law school and become a practicing lawyer. “My ultimate goal is to become a politician, where I will be able to represent and support the general public.”

Ryan has already attained his Pathway to Law certifications as he took his first community college class when I was 12. “I was inducted to my high school’s National Honor Society chapter during my senior year,” he writes. “This achievement was one that I was excited to receive, because I knew that only the best of my whole school would get that honor. Since my graduation, I have been planning on donating to numerous causes throughout my local area, and volunteering for charitable causes.”

Sarah Garcia

Daughter of Maria Garcia, DMV, State of California.

Sarah plans to attend Cal State San Bernardino this fall.

Sarah struggled to gain her self-confidence through elementary and middle school, she writes, as she was bullied for her speech impediment. “For me, high school was one of the best things that could have happened. I am proud of my high school years and the person I became from it. I was able to grow in confidence, take advantage of the academic opportunities, and become the leader that I believe I was meant to be.”

Recently, Sarah has solidified her career goals. “I suffered from a speech impediment, and it ruined a good portion of my childhood. My plan for the future is still to become a teacher, but I will attend graduate school to obtain a Master’s degree in speech pathology, so I can help others in the same situation – no child should be bullied and lack self-confidence from it.”

Leah Graham

Leah works for the LA County Fire Dept.,
Los Angeles County.

Leah is in her second year studying at Eastern Gateway Community College.

She’s a Club Member who has worked with the County of Los Angeles for the past three years. “In that time, I have met a lot of amazing, educated individuals who have encouraged me to finish school to have more promotion potential within the County,” she writes.

“Being a single mother to a beautiful daughter, I knew that I had to set the best example possible. Education is the one thing that we work hard to achieve, that can never be taken away from us once we have it.”

At Eastern Gateway Community College, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA.

“Five years from now, I will be graduating with my law degree and celebrating my daughter’s tenth birthday. I hope that with every achievement and milestone we share, she is motivated to do the same as me, if not more than me.”

Arlene Horton

Daughter of Aida Gonzalez, DPSS, Los Angeles County.

Arlene plans to continue her education at Cal State East Bay in the fall.

She’s finished her first year at Cal State, majoring in business administration.

She captained her high school basketball team, volunteered with Metro Kids and plays in a church band. Becoming involved in community is important to Arlene and at college, she works as a member of the Freshmen Area Council with the Residence Hall Association for housing.

Arlene is a first generation university student. “I plan to accomplish my goals and illustrate all the lessons I have learned from the people who surround me,” she writes. “They have taught me to push for what I want and to always help others no matter my circumstances, because that’s how we can provide life to the world.

Neridah Jacquez

Daughter of Barbaree Jacquez, DMV, State of California.

Neridah plans to transfer to UC Santa Barbara in the fall, from College of Sequoias in Visalia in the fall.

She’s studying to earn her Bachelor’s degree in history, after which she will work towards a teaching credential, and a Master’s degree.

Neridah was working as a high school social science tutor, and had that job for three years until the global pandemic came.

Neridah is inspired by history and wants to inspire as an educator. “Ever since I was introduced to ancient Egyptian history, I was hooked,” she writes. “I am ready to encourage students to fall in love with history in the same way that I was able to. Additionally, I aspire to become the educator I never had while attending public school. It was not until I enrolled at COS that I was introduced to history teachers who actually loved their jobs.”

Jaylene Jaloma

Jaylene is related to Adolfo Medina, Retired, Public Works, City of Los Angeles.

Jaylene plans to attend the University of La Verne in the fall to study communications and use that knowledge to become a police officer.

“For the first seven years of my life, my father was a great dad and a huge influence in my life,” she writes. “My father introduced me to the love of my life, softball. He coached my teams and he taught me everything I knew about the game. It was our shared love.

“Softball has taught me to be humble, patient, with a strong work ethic and good sportsmanship.” Softball also taught her not to give up, and she is re-establishing a relationship with her father. “I am hopeful that he has defeated his battle and that he will remain present in my life.”

Erick Jose

Erick is a Club Member who works for Rec and Parks,
City of Los Angeles.

Erick plans to attend Cal State Northridge this fall, studying cellular/molecular biology, with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Erick spoke very little English when he started elementary school but went on to become a top student in school.

He gained work experience for three summers as a Locker Attendant for City of Los Angeles’ Rec and Parks at Sylmar Pool. “Under the supervision of my PM II Amelia Strand and my PM I Josiah Torres, I was able to transition smoothly into my first job with their kindness and leadership,” he writes. “They taught me different skills, helped me when I was applying for college, and showed me different positions within the City.

“I still have a long way to go in my education and goals, but I believe I will be able to achieve it as long as I stay focused.”

Paul Lankford II

Son of Mary Lankford, Probation, Los Angeles County.

Paul plans to continue his studies toward a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical science at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

“I played a lot of sports (soccer, baseball, football, basketball and I ran track) while at school. I loved being part of a team. It taught me teamwork and I also made some friends.”

While in elementary school, Paul’s rock band won Battle of the Bands at the House of Blues, Hollywood, two out of the three years they performed, defeating around 100 bands. He has volunteered with his church and helped feed the homeless.

“I am excited and ready for the challenge of finishing my Bachelor degree,” he writes. “I am going to get my Master’s degree and enroll in the Physician Assistant Program. I want to become a Physician Assistant. I plan on working to save money for medical school within three years of being a PA.”

Kelechi Mbaruguru

Daughter of Ejike Eziefula Mbaruguru, Public Works,
City of Los Angeles.

Kelechi plans to attend Cal Poly Pomona this fall.

Kelechi attended San Dimas High where she made varsity basketball and varsity track and field in her sophomore year and varsity cross-country her senior year. “I was honored to receive the title scholar athlete both my junior and senior year,” she writes. “It was hard to juggle both sports and academics all four years. It was worth it at the end when I won Iron Woman for the class of 2020 of San Dimas High School.”

She plans to major in chemistry and minor in biochemistry and wants to pursue a career in medicine or medical sciences and specialize in neurology. “I have always been fascinated with medicine and related fields of study. My interest was heightened as I took AP Psychology and Biology.”

Rebecca McCrumb-Cline

Rebecca works for the Dept. of Food and Agriculture,
State of California.

Rebecca plans to continue studying at Sacramento City College in the fall.

She works with the California Department of Food and Agriculture as an Associate Governmental Program Analyst.

“I went down a different path after high school graduation, and regretfully did not attend college classes,” she writes. “I had two children by the age of 20 and was a homemaker for several years. I chose to return to school when I was 32, and enrolled into college classes at Sacramento City College, with the goal of earning Associate of arts degree in business administration,” she writes.

“Although I am enrolled as a full-time student, I am also a mother, wife, and full-time employee outside of school. I am on track to transfer to Sacramento State University in the fall of 2021, to earn my Bachelor of arts.”

Alyson Mills

Daughter of Jeffrey Mills, DWP, City of Los Angeles.

Alyson plans to continue her studies at Trinity Law School, Santa Ana, in the fall.

“Since being accepted into law school, I have been working diligently and consistently to continue to my dreams of becoming a district attorney,” she writes. “While I was in high school, I wrote my senior thesis on prosecutorial misconduct and how to stop it. While doing my research, I realized that Los Angeles has one of the highest rates of prosecutorial misconduct compared to the rest of the United States.

“After I finish law school and become settled in my career, I intend to open a nonprofit organization that will offer services pro-bono for civil matters for those who need it.

“When I left high school, I thought I could do anything. Now I know I can.”

Officer Tia Moore

Tia is a Police Officer for the Airport Police, Airports,
City of Los Angeles.

Tia plans to attend Pepperdine University in the fall to begin the Master of science program in organizational leadership and learning (MSOL).

Tia is a former United States Army National Guardswoman. She works in Los Angeles as an Officer with the Airport Police Dept. She has personally suffered harassment in her childhood and in the workplace and writes: “I have witnessed many institutional/organizational practices that lend themselves to sexism, racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism, and other institutional biases.

“As a public servant, I have to be mindful of others without prejudice or discrimination. In this, I understand that all minority communities have suffered the fate of discrimination in some way. It is my goal to help organizations to develop equitable workplace practices for the benefit of all of their employees.”

Isabella Moreno

Daughter of Kimberly Williams, CHP, State of California.

Isabella plans to attend Cal State Long Beach this fall. “Academically, I have always strived to achieve and challenge myself,” she writes. However, she has not decided on a career path yet. “I believe that furthering my education will allow me to grasp a better knowledge of the real world and understand who I am.

“The ability to learn is a luxury many people overlook, as many people cannot afford to further their education. At the moment, I am leaning toward psychology, but I would love to use this academic opportunity to expand my creativity and build a solid mindset about who I want to become. I plan to use this expanded educational experience to create a more successful future self.”

Chanyce Rose

Daughter of Omar Rincon, Transportation,
City of Los Angeles.

Chanyce plans to continue attending UC Santa Barbara.

“I was in foster care for some time as a child, and I witnessed my mother in some abusive relationships, while I endured some of this abuse as well,” she writes. “This trauma left me with depression and anxiety that I was unsure I would ever be able to fully cope with. Making it to college was a huge feat for me, and I am the first person in my family to do so; I will be the first person to obtain a college degree in my family about a year from now.”

Chanyce thrived after joining Hermanas Unidas on campus. “I made friends and was exposed to resources I’d never known about.” She worked with the group to execute a college tour with juniors from her own high school.

“If the first-year me would be able to see me now, I know she would be proud. I’ve overcome so much just to get here, and this is only the beginning.”

Damian Sosa

Son of Jennifer Corona, LAFD, City of Los Angeles.

Damian plans to attend Rio Hondo Community College in the fall and hopes to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona to major in computer engineering.

Damian completed the LAFD Youth Fire Program. “After I completed the program, I went back to volunteer, to help out as a Peer Adviser,” he writes. “I have been helping out in the program for seven years because I enjoy the program a lot and I enjoy helping others.”

Another major achievement of Damian’s life was managing an e-sports team at his high school (East College Prep), which competed against other schools around the world. He helped set up all the computers and monitors for the players, and fixed anything that went wrong.

Jo Ann Sun

Daughter of Yi-Bing Sun, Retired, Public Works,
City of Los Angeles.

Jo Ann plans to continue studying at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying neuroscience. She wishes to pursue a career in medicine.

In summer 2018, Jo Ann attended the prestigious Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Academy at the City of Hope National Medical Center, where she presented her research. “Spending a summer laboring full-time over a project to detect the function of one gene may seem monotonous to some people, but through this academy, I experienced a new passion for medical research that emerged with unprecedented fervor,” she writes.

Jo Ann volunteers at Penn Medicine Hospice, reading stories to nonverbal patients and sitting with families. “This has taught me that the most important contribution I can make as a healthcare professional is to simply be kind. People who seek medical help are often anxious and afraid, and I wish to make their experience better by being a diligent, understanding, and trustworthy physician.”

Steven Sun

Son of Yi-Bing Sun, Retired, Public Works,
City of Los Angeles.

Steven plans to attends UC San Diego’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, studying to be a pharmacist.

“Recently, I led a small team on an abroad program in rural Taiwan,” he writes. “We distributed school supplies and taught basic English. I realized how differently health was prioritized compared to the U.S. Many students had never heard of annual checkups or bi-annual teeth cleanings, and the nearest clinic with medication and first-aid supplies was over an hour’s drive away. This inequity between their community and mine greatly troubled me because I had taken for granted those same services.”

Steven’s interest in pharmacy came about when he suffered an L4-L5 herniated disc at the gym. “Unable to walk and in excruciating pain, I was prescribed cyclobenzaprine and ibuprofen. I was apprehensive of potential side effects, but the pharmacist removed my fears by carefully explaining the medication to me in a way I could understand.”

Celimari Tapia

Daughter of Jorge Tapia, Employment Development Dept., State of California.

Celimari plans to continue attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

“I was put in a medial high school, with no intentions of wanting to go in that field, but I made the best of it,” she writes. “I learned that it’s important to draw wisdom from different places.

“My end goal is working for my favorite cosmetic brand as a product developer, to travel the world to find the latest trends that will benefit the brand and enforce the type of company they represent … a company that prides itself to be wallet-friendly, that does not test on animals. I want to be the best product developer I can be. When I am finally done, I can be proud of what I have done and know that I left with a mark to inspire others.”

Kalia Thompson

Kalia is related to B’Elma Claiborne, Retired, Personnel,
City of Los Angeles.

Kalia plans to continue her studies at Sewanee: The University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., in the fall. Her major is undecided.

“While I don’t know my major currently, I strive to please my Creator and use He gave me to help others in everything I do. Whether it’s making others smile at a show, keeping them safe and entertained or just making their lives easier, my aim is to give back.

“No matter what I’ve wanted to do with my life, my top goal for the future has been to give people joy with whatever I do.”