Club recognizes scholastic achievement, community involvement and need in honoring 2022 awardees.
The Club is pleased to announce the winners of the annual Joannie Mukai Scholarship Program for 2022. An elevated total – 30 – of Club Members and their relatives have been awarded stipends. A total of 97 students applied.
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 12th anniversary of her death.
“The Club is delighted to recognize these incredible members of the Club family,” said Robert Larios, Club CEO. “The last few years of the pandemic have been hard on students, but these students have excelled.
“The Club’s scholarship committee and I wish all the success in the world to everyone who applied. Keep achieving … the future 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 2022
Congratulations to the awardees and their families,
and the Club wishes the best success to all those who applied.
ABOUT JOANNIE MUKAI
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
Caitlyn is the daughter of Sarita Aguillard, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.
Caitlyn ran track for freshman and sophomore year, competing in 300-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles, and the 4X100-meter relay. Due to the COVID pandemic, all high-school sports activities ended. “I was very happy that school opened up prior to my senior year, when I transferred to Pete Knight High School.”
During this summer, Caitlyn is working with LA County Parks and Recreation as a pool locker room attendant. She is volunteering to mentor and help children in the summer youth programs with sports activities and arts and crafts.
Caitlyn plans to study at Prairie View A&M University, Texas, in the fall. “I’m planning to enter kinesiology to be an athletic trainer,” she writes.
Alexis is the daughter of Det. Camille Armstead, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.
Alexis plans to study at Howard University, Washington, D.C. this fall.
“My college education will enable me to enter the medical field to help dismantle the statistic that black women are more likely to fall victim to medical malpractice. I want to be a medical interpreter for women in need,” she writes.
Alexis has already begun her journey: She used her experience as a member of “Safe Bae” (which advocates for female victims of sex crimes and domestic violence) and became a leader of the Feminist Club in high school. “In this role I could make a positive impact on not just my peers, but my community,” she writes.
Alexis plans to study for a bachelor of science degree, after which she plans to become a physician’s assistant.
Andres is the son of Marta Segura, Public Works/Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, City of Los Angeles.
Andres plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley this fall.
Fueled by Stars Wars viewings and trips to Rec and Parks’Griffith Observatory, Andres hopes to be an astronomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada or at SpaceX in Hawthorne, and also teach at a university. “The more I learned about the cosmos, the more I wanted to explore it,” he writes.
“Launching my high school’s first space club and sharing my interest with others has been a turning point and has influenced my decisiveness to pursue astrophysics. I recruited an astrophysicist who earned her degree at UCLA as our club adviser. Dr. Haney has made it possible to have met Virgin Galactica astronauts and talked to them about democratizing space travel.”
Antonice is a dependent of Cynthia Billinsglea, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.
Antonice graduated from Teach Tech Charter in South Central Los Angeles and plans to attend Texas Southern University in the fall.
“I am the middle child of eleven children,” she writes. “I plan to be the first in my household to attend college. Growing up in my community, I did not see many examples of people pursuing a higher level of education after high school. I am striving to become one of the rare success stories that will break this cycle, especially for my family.”
Antonice chose a college that offers “both a great academic program for pre-med students, as well as an inspiring campus-life experience. Nothing worth having comes easy, and I am prepared to take on that challenge to step into my next chapter.”
Kristin is a student at Cal State Long Beach, and an employee of CAL FIRE, State of California.
Kristin is a graduate of San Diego Miramar College’s Fire Science Program with an associate degree in fire science, and a special certification in fire protection technology. She is also a graduate of Cal State University San Marcos’ (CSUSM) online wildfire sciences bachelor’s degree program.
“I have managed to succeed in accomplishing these educational and career milestones while working two full-time jobs, attending CSUSM full time, and as a single mother of three daughters,” she writes.
“The Emergency Services Administration program from CSU Long Beach will supply me with the kind of education and experience that allows me to make a considerable difference in my career field.”
Jordan is the son of Evan Jackson, Public Works/Contract Administration, City of Los Angeles.
Jordan plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, in the fall.
During his senior year, Jordan played basketball and ran track. “I was honored to be part of the CIF City Championship Division II team,” he writes. “We brought home a championship after many years of falling short.”
As a member of Brister Baptist Church, Jordan serves on the parking lot and security team and volunteers at many church events. “At LACES, I am a mentor for at-risk students and help them with social and emotional issues, school issues, and much more.
“I want to change the narrative of young men, starting by continuing my education. Making my family proud, walking across the stage in four years with a degree.”
Nalani is the granddaughter of Don Piechura, City of Cypress.
Nalani is a student at Long Beach City College, and at 19, she knows that she wants to be a trauma-informed therapist. Many therapists are not trauma-informed and consequently, many people who go to therapy never fully get their needs met, she says.
“A few years back I was one of those people who didn’t understand why my needs were not met and stopped going to therapy,” she writes.
Although Nalani had good grades and a lot of extra-curricular activities, “I was bullied by everyone in my life growing up and didn’t meet good friends until I was 18. I consistently experienced trauma and healed through it alone.”
Her experiences have inspired her “to help and understand others in ways I never was.”
Madison is the daughter of Ross Fink, Retired, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.
Madison is a student at College of the Canyons, and she hopes to transfer to the interior design program offered by Cal State Long Beach.
Madison has fond memories of going with her family to performances at the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center. In addition, her aunt is an artist with a studio in Manila. “It was in this studio that I first realized my love for visual art, which is valid and crucial in our society,” she writes.
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of seeing films come to life on a massive screen. Working behind the scenes or, rather, on the artistic world-building that supports film, is an aspect of interior design that I cannot wait to experience.”
Emma is the granddaughter of Adolfo “Red” Medina, Retired, Public Works/Contract Administration, City of Los Angeles.
Emma plans to attend University of Washington this fall.
Emma participated and lead in FIRST Robotics, where she developed her passion for engineering. “I was elected Outreach Captain, and I organized team events, including Girl Scout programming workshops and Women-in-STEM panels with JPL and MD-Anderson Cancer Center speakers. Our goal was to introduce girls to STEM, encourage them to consider the field, and inspire them through our work.”
Her team won the Connect Award, in recognition of its community outreach. “I was presented with two independent awards that recognized my outstanding efforts in hardware and leadership throughout the season.”
However, it is family and personal stories that motivate Emma as she leaves California for college.
Angel is the son of Vanessa Esquivel Vera, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.
“Sports became part of my regular life as I was growing up,” Angel writes. “I learned to work hard and have discipline through every sport I played.
“Playing football in high school for all four years was probably the best time of my life. I would also play tennis for the first two years.” Unfortunately, sports were canceled due to COVID restrictions, but Angel maintained good grades throughout high school.
“College is all that has been in my mind for the past year and taking the necessary steps to get there.”
This fall, Angel plans to attend San Jose State University with hopes of graduating with a degree in either engineering or business.
Matthew is the son of Karen Jernigan, Dept. of Managed Health Care, State of California.
Matthew has played baseball since he was five years old. He made the varsity team in high school, but then COVID put a halt to his play.
“I decided that if I could not play baseball, I would be ready once the world opened back up,” he writes. “I started working out. I lifted weights, started doing drills to improve my game and focused on the things that I could control.”
When baseball returned, Matthew had a stellar year, including being nominated for the All-State team. “With my baseball accomplishments, Western Oregon University (WOU) noticed me and offered me a spot on the baseball team for Spring 2023. I am truly excited to pursue my education and baseball career there.”
Naomi is the daughter of Officer Roberto Jimenez, California Highway Patrol, State of California.
Naomi plans to study at Cal Poly Pomona this fall, majoring in animal sciences.
It was Naomi’s pet guinea pig that inspired her choice of major. “Gus Gus was my buddy; he helped with my anxiety, but most importantly he kept me happy,” she writes. Naomi hopes “to one day help pets and animals, and other guinea pigs.”
Naomi played the snare drum for all four years of high school marching band. Also, “I continued to play the violin, which I’ve been playing for seven years.
“Music has been the best motivator in my life. Without music, I doubt I would have learned how capable I am to multi-task, have leadership skills, and develop confidence.”
Sequilla is now a social worker for the Independent Living Program with Los Angeles County.
Sequilla’s love for social work blossomed at a young age. “I knew that helping people was my calling,” she writes. Before the age of ten, Sequilla had lived in more than ten different placements as part of the foster care system. And as the oldest of seven children, Sequilla grew up taking care of and protecting her younger siblings.
“I plan to expand my education and pursue a master’s degree in social work.” She is a student at Cal State Long Beach, and an employee of the Dept. of Children and Family Services, State of California.
“I believe that we are only as strong as our weakest entity, so making sure that former foster youths are equipped with the tools that they need to be successful is my purpose.”
Alissa is the niece of Steve Lopez, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.
Alissa plans to attend Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria this fall.
“I will be majoring in nursing and obtaining an associate degree in biology,” she writes. Alissa plans to transfer to another California four-year university, and has a long-term career goal to be an obstetrician-gynecologist.
“There isn’t enough representation of Latinos in this field of medicine, let alone women OB-GYNs. With limited Spanish-speaking doctors, it’s difficult for women in my community to feel safe and make confident decisions regarding their bodies.
“I dream of being part of a community that educates, equips and enables young women from all communities and backgrounds with healthy and accessible resources for their bodies.”
Megan is the daughter of Daniel Macias, Corrections Officer, State of California.
Megan plans to study at Arizona State University in the fall.
“As a young Chicana girl whose first language was Spanish, it was difficult to see myself in the history taught, in the books I read, in the American education system,” she writes.
Megan has worked as a student mentor in the Personal Allies for Learning Success (PALS) program. She works as a writing tutor at Estrella Mountain Community College, where she assists many ESL (English as a second language) students.
“I hope to gain more experience of working with a diverse student body.” Megan wants to work in diverse teaching, helping Latino and Hispanic students progress their education.
Mekhi is the son of Eugene Mackey, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.
Mekhi plans to attend Jackson State University in Mississippi this fall. His dream is to become a graphic designer.
Born and raised in Compton, Los Angeles County, Mekhi said he is considered a statistic. “With me being a young man living in an urban area, as well as going to a high school in an urban area, the ability to go to college is a blessing,” he writes.
“Life is full of learning opportunities, and I will take advantage of any and all opportunities that have been given to me. I find arts and music a creative outlet that help increase my happiness.
“Also, there is a need for people of color in graphic design/arts.”
Imelda is a student at Franklin University, Ohio, and wife of John Mireles, LADOT, City of Los Angeles.
Imelda went back to college in 2019, studying online. “Going back to school after 22 years, it was quite a challenging experience,” she writes. The challenges continued because she had COVID in December 2020 and now suffers as a COVID long-hauler, she writes.
“But I always have to remind myself that it will be a rewarding experience completing this goal. It will be an accomplishment to share with my spouse and family. This is also my way of setting an example to the younger generation that education is for any age as long as we remain committed, persevere and stay focused to finish strong.”
Crystal is the daughter of Adriana Reyes, Public Social Services, Los Angeles County.
Crystal plans to attend UCLA this fall. She graduated from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, where she “played varsity basketball all four years and was team captain for my junior and senior years.” She was the MVP in the All-Southern League in 2021-22.
“I have high-functioning autism,” she writes. “I know growing up I was a very difficult child. I’ve always been stubborn when I’ve already decided what I wanted to do and I’m glad that’s stuck with me.”
Crystal wants to earn her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and then study forensic science.
“I am going to be the first person in my household to attend university. I don’t only want to make my family proud but I want to be proud of myself in graduating.”
Cameron is the son of Shirley Palacios, Harbor, City of Los Angeles.
Cameron plans to attend UCLA this fall and study mathematics. He graduated from the School for Advanced Studies at San Pedro High School, where he took 10 AP classes while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Cameron grew up without his father. He writes: “I am grateful for the critical thinking abilities and sense of responsibility I developed as a result.”
In school, Cameron joined a variety of clubs to connect with others, and he volunteered with the Relay for Life Club and the Surfrider Club. “I attend wetland restoration events and help test the water quality of our local ocean to report back to the Surfrider Foundation.”
Sheccid is the daughter of Martin Rodriguez, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.
Sheccid attends Tulane University in New Orleans.
“Going out of state allowed me to grow in ways I could have never imagined,” she writes. Sheccid was admitted to the Newcomb Scholars program, a selective and prestigious feminist group, and she also made the Dean’s List, despite undergoing a hurricane evacuation and an ongoing pandemic.
Sheccid hopes to major in political science and environmental studies. Her passion for fighting climate change led to her starting Clothes by the Pound, collecting and selling unwanted clothes. Unsold clothes were donated, and Sheccid raised more than $1,800. “The money went to two underfunded multicultural organizations on Tulane’s campus,” she writes. “This is the accomplishment that I feel most proud of when looking back on my first year.”
Jocelyn is the granddaughter of Maria Guzman, General Services, City of Los Angeles.
Jocelyn plans to attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall and wants to be a teacher. “I want to show people that benevolence and pride can get you far and entrust future generations with an active- encouraging attitude.”
Her own story includes her being abused, she alleges. “This experience shaped me into the young woman I know and love today,” she writes. “I learned that the molestation was not a weakness, not my fault. It was just something that happened to me. I have come to realize I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. Now, my goal is to help others believe they are, too.”
Ariana is the daughter of Hortencia Ruiz, Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, State of California.
Ariana plans attend the University of California Riverside in the fall.
Ariana wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist, and plans to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) after earning her bachelor’s degree at UCR.
“I started to go to an OB/GYN when I was sixteen,” she writes. “It was the one appointment I never wanted to miss, because I felt safe and knowing they cared not only about my health but also about my reproductive system.
“It got me thinking about wanting to be just like my doctor, helping pregnant women go through an amazing change and bringing a new human into the world.”
Nicole is the daughter of Zaida Arroyo, Dept. of Probation, Los Angeles County.
Nicole plans to attend Soka University of America this fall.
An ACL injury left Nicole with some post-surgery depression, but “it helped me realize that I was strong beyond just soccer,” she said.
“Working hard in school while also juggling rigorous physical therapy for 10 months to get my physical strength back really paid off.” Nicole was accepted to Soka and also made the women’s soccer team – “which I am beyond excited to be a part of. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am now, and am on the path to accomplishing my dreams.” Her future career plans include pursuing a job in psychology.
Mahwish works for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Mahwish has always wanted to finish her education. She started college and got married, had a daughter and is now a single mother. “I am working, taking care of my daughter, and taking some classes.
“During the pandemic, I planned to finish my education since I lost my work. It is very hard to finish college, but I am working toward it.”
She is a determined student at Pierce College, very close to her dream of completing her associate’s degree: “I am not giving up my degree.”
Cameron is the daughter of Yolanda Tarr, Controller’s Office, State of California.
Cameron attends Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona.
Despite having learning disabilities, according to her, Cameron has achieved a lot. She graduated early from Oakmont High School and has completed six online classes, which she hopes should give her sophomore status by the time she starts at GCU.
Cameron’s ambition, to go into forensics, was inspired by a family event — her grandfather was the victim of an assault. “He was robbed and knocked out by a blow to the back of his head, causing him to go unconscious,” she alleges. “Unfortunately, the police were never able to track down the suspect.”
Kaliyah is the granddaughter of Priscilla Ann Gray, widow of the late Daniel Gray, Public Works, City of Los Angeles.
Kaliyah plans to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz, this fall.
Throughout high school, Kaliyah accumulated more than 300 hours of community service and joined the Student Social Movement Club, which sparked her social activism. “I came in contact with different organizations committed to making positive change,” she writes. “I also began to pay more attention to government and politics, focusing on social justice and the Innocence Project cases. My desire to help others and impact areas of equity in the law blossomed.” Kaliyah’s career goal is to be an attorney.
“As a person of color, I have watched others struggle with our legal system. I believe that trust, communication and transparency are essential to the relationship society has with the government.”
Samantha is the daughter of Robert Walker, General Services, City of Los Angeles.
Samantha plans to study at DePaul University in Illinois in the fall and wants to be a film-maker.
Samantha plays trombone, piano, ukulele and electric bass, but neither of her parents is musically inclined. “No one in my family marvels at the beauty of music like I can; how a favorite piece breathes life into me or can almost make me cry,” she writes.
“A few years ago, my biological grandmother found my mother. I was pretty excited to meet her. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe our meeting, and I had so many questions … finding out that my great-grandfather was a professional musician (and bass no less) made me feel more connected to my Hispanic heritage and my love of music.”
Samantha is the daughter of Ryan West, ISD, Los Angeles County.
Samantha is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in kinesiology.
November 14th, 2019: “Although school shootings seem as if they could never happen in your hometown, they do,” she writes. “My former high school, only a few miles from Saugus High (where the shooting occurred), was forced into a hard lockdown because of an active shooter. During this time, no information was given to students or staff, and for exactly eight minutes we all feared for the worst.” During the lockdown, Samantha witnessed the flight or fight response in those around her in real time, and she found herself springing into action.
“On that day, I learned how meaningful life is, and I solidified my calling to pursue a college degree and work in the medical field.”
Jesus is the son of Elizabeth Loza, Dept. of Social Services, Los Angeles County.
Jesus is a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
When he first walked through Sather Gate at UC Berkeley, he says he thought he was in way over his head. “My big goals that I came to school with suddenly felt unattainable as imposter syndrome hit during the first semester,” he writes. “Luckily, I was a part of Berkeley’s African American Theme Program (AATP) and found a great community of people and friends who helped me.”
“Being half Black and half Mexican has allowed me to have a multicultural and diverse upbringing. I have been a part of impoverished Latin and Black communities, which is why I have such a passion for wanting to give back.”
Brandon works as a Transportation Engineering Associate at Transportation (LADOT).
Brandon is a student at the University of Southern California, and an employee of LADOT, City of Los Angeles.
His work is based at City Hall East’s traffic management center, “which is also known as Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control Center (ATSAC). We monitor the City’s nearly 4,800 traffic signals daily to improve synchronization along the major corridors, while also designing new signals and maintaining existing signals. Working at ATSAC has brought me some new challenges and has influenced my decision to continue my education.”
Brandon is pursuing a master’s degree at USC in transportation engineering. “With the imminent arrival of automated vehicles, this is an exciting time to learn about transportation technology.”