The Club honors 43 with Joannie Mukai Scholarships, a record number.

2023 Mukai Scholarship Winners

The Club is pleased to announce the winners of the annual Joannie Mukai Scholarship Program for 2023. A record total – 43 – of Club Members and their relatives have been awarded stipends. Some 113 students applied, also 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 13th anniversary of her death.

“We saw record numbers of applicants this year, and the Club is only delighted to step up the number of awardees, so we can properly recognize these incredible members of the Club family,” said Robert Larios, Club CEO. “By every measure, our future leaders have excelled and are eager to continue.

“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 2023.

Congratulations to the awardees and their families, 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 $750 Joannie Mukai Scholarship:

Natalie Avalos

Natalie is the daughter of Juan Avalos, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Natalie is an incoming student at UCLA.

Natalie is proud of her Mexican heritage and grew up learning to read in both English and Spanish. That sparked a love of languages in her, and she went on to learn Italian and Portuguese.

“Being multilingual has improved my problem-solving skills,” she writes. “I also improved my lateral thinking since I needed to find creative solutions when I didn’t know certain words to express myself.”

In high school, Natalie pursued STEM education. “I signed up for the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program,” which helped her learn many computer languages. She took on more self-paced learning to immerse herself in cybersecurity and cryptography.

Natalie hopes to explore many interests at UCLA while studying electrical engineering.

Kiara Belcher

Kiara is the daughter of Genae Evans, Dept. of Motor Vehicles, State of California.

Kiara is an incoming student at Howard University, Washington, DC.

“Transitioning into high school, I became an active member of the Black Student Union, inspiring other students to join, and creating a safe space for cultural exchange in a school with limited diversity,” she writes. “In Grant’s Coalition, I assisted in presenting the code of conduct to students, organized assemblies on conflict resolution, and coordinated cultural activities.

“A pivotal moment in my leadership journey was moderating an online panel discussion with Sacramento Police Dept. Chief Hahn. This transparent conversation between teens and law enforcement shaped my belief that open dialogue can spark positive change in our communities.”

Kiara wants to major in psychology. “I believe that understanding others’ mental health struggles will enable me to help them in ways I wished someone had helped me.”

Isabella Bernaldo

Isabella is the daughter of Rodney Bernaldo, Public Works/Sanitation and Environment, City of Los Angeles.

Isabella plans to attend Boston College this fall.

“I love language, linguistics and the overall concept of communication,” she writes. “Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I can apply it to a long-term profession. I will be attending my dream school, Boston College, in the fall and majoring in linguistics to become a speech pathologist.”

Isabella hopes to combine her love of language with a passion for improving others’ lives. “Personally, I can sustain myself only when I am passionate and make a greater contribution to the world. As a speech pathologist, I hope to combine my passion for language with the drive to better the world and lives.”

Chloe Brantley

Chloe is the daughter of Vincent Jackson, LADOT, City of Los Angeles.

Chloe plans to attend California State University, San Bernardino to study arts this fall.

Chloe’s health has always been an issue: “Due to severe medical complications at birth, doctors told my mom that the chances of my survival were bleak,” she writes. “I defied the odds and have worked hard to make it to my high school graduation. My survival is a true miracle.” Chloe says she has struggled since with a weak immune system, chronic illness, ADHD and scoliosis. “However, these ailments did not define or limit my success!”

Chloe sang with her high school’s madrigal show choir in freshman year, sang with the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church youth choir and has been an active member of Unspeakable Praise, New Hope’s praise dance team. “Through these experiences, I gained mentors who helped me grow artistically as well as professionally. Moreover, I have been able to give back to my San Bernardino community.”

Brent Brewster

Brent is the son of Catherine Pelonero, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Brent plans to attend UC San Diego this fall and study electrical engineering.

“Ever since I was little, I liked to fix things,” he writes. “I enjoyed understanding and learning the way different things worked and how they could be repaired. In elementary school I would fix my classmates’ calculators.” The ability to fix things led Brent to pursue a STEM education and then to embrace the field of mechanical engineering. “Mechanical engineers are the people behind the vehicles we have in our world today, and play an essential role in how our world runs.

“After college, I would like to advocate for cleaner and cheaper energy to allow for more widespread coverage for nations across the world. I want to also make more inexpensive and efficient vehicles that can serve the people and the environment better. Like that kid that was fixing calculators in fourth grade, I want to help people.”

Madison Brown

Madison is the daughter of Larry Brown, LADOT, City of Los Angeles.

Madison is a senior at Howard University, Washington, D.C., studying for a human performance major with a concentration in sports medicine, and a psychology minor.

Madison vividly recalls her Career Day in fifth grade choosing to research “pediatrician.” “My inspiration was my pediatrician, a strong black woman I wanted to emulate,” she writes.

“My goal is to return to my community as a positive role model for young Black children like myself – a little girl who looked up to her pediatrician. It is not very often that people of color have experiences with healthcare professionals who look like them. While this may seem insignificant to healthcare, the slightest interaction with someone who looks like you can severely increase patient comfort and allow for a better patient-physician relationship.”

Maya Cereceres

Maya is the daughter of Alfred Cereceres, Public Works/Sanitation and Environment, City of Los Angeles.

Maya is a student at San Diego State University and wants to be a teacher.

Maya has faced the challenges of living in a new city while studying and completing classroom hours. “Through my in-classroom experience, I have been able to work with students, learn from experienced teachers, and see the classroom from the perspective of a future educator,” she writes.

Maya worked as a recreation leader for a summer camp to earn money for the upcoming school year.

“With this degree, I will join a profession that helps students succeed inside and outside the classroom. While being a teacher is far from easy, I look forward to my future where I am in a classroom helping students learn and grow into members of society.”

Aneesa Cole

Aneesa is the niece of Navon Kinsey, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.

Aneesa is an incoming student at UCLA.

“My journey continues to show me that one huge moment alone doesn’t define us, it’s the accumulation of many smaller moments and how we choose to respond that shapes us,” she writes.

“I’m the middle child of two girls, a Christian, and the product of a strong feminist Mexican and a headstrong Black man. The reason I have set my mind on going to college is not because my parents weren’t able to go to college, but because I have experienced the outcome of them not going.

“College has always been a major goal for me. and I have worked hard to get to this point of my life. Once my mind is set on accomplishing something;, nothing can stop me.”

Cassidy Connor

Cassidy is the daughter of Charles Connor, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Cassidy plans to attend California State University, Fullerton, this fall, having already completed two years of school at California State University, Los Angeles.

Cassidy went into college with no declared major, but looking back to her childhood helped her to commit. “I loved to read,” she writes. “I read not just fiction, or the books assigned to me at school, but psychology articles. The human brain drew so much curiosity from me growing up, which I committed to as my major!”

Cassidy is also a lifeguard. “That experience made me interested in a healthcare career.” As well as her psychology major, Cassidy will work toward a pre-health-studies minor with the aim of working in anesthesiology in an operating room.

Officer Jeffrey Coprich Jr.

LAPD employee, City of Los Angeles.

Jeffrey is a Master’s degree student at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and an LAPD employee, City of Los Angeles. Jeffrey founded Unsung Heroes Leadership Foundation and is also the CEO of Zeven Clothing.

In his 29 years, Jeffrey says he has lost more than 15 friends and family members to the L.A. streets. As an undergrad, Jeffrey attended the University of California, Berkeley on a full athletic scholarship. “I graduated in three-and-a-half years,” he writes. “I majored in legal studies and minored in music. Later, I played professionally and in recent years retired. I am now a full-time music artist and LAPD Officer.

“I learned how to tackle anything that comes my way growing up in the rough neighborhoods of Watts, Compton and Inglewood. I overcame challenges that have shaped my character. As a young Black male, I was pressured to take many different routes in life, and not all were positive.”

Katherine Drummond

Employee of Airports, City of Los Angeles.

Katherine is an incoming student at the University of California, Riverside, and an employee of Airports, City of Los Angeles.

As a senior at Chino Hills High School, Katherine’s achievements included three honors courses and seven Advance Placement courses, with four years of Spanish. She was chosen for the 2023 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Honor Troop.

“I am on the Pre-Law track majoring in sociology with a concentration in Law and Society with minors in criminology and environmental studies,” she writes. Katherine’s career goal is to become a lawyer.

Katherine is also an English equestrian hunter/jumper, riding since second grade. “I have been on several show-jumping teams, winning numerous competition ribbons and champion placements. I enjoy volunteering at the barns where I train cleaning and caring for horses, assisting trainers and helping with barn chores.”

Christine Eckford

Employee of LA’s Personnel Dept

Christine is an employee of LA’s Personnel Dept. and is studying for a degree in organizational leadership and management.

“Ever since I can remember I have been drawn to leadership roles,” she writes. “As a child, I organized neighborhood games and events. In school, I served as class president. As an adult, I am now a newly appointed Sr. Admin Clerk for Personnel. Leadership comes naturally to me, and I thrive on motivating others, setting a vision and helping people achieve their potential.

“I plan to put my education to use as a supervisor and leader in my chosen field. The program coursework in areas like human resources, communication, group dynamics and ethics will give me the knowledge and tools I need to effectively lead others. I understand that leadership is about more than giving orders or having a title — it requires developing people, fostering teamwork, finding solutions and inspiring action.”

Ernesto Escobar

Employee of LA’s Office of the City Attorney.

Ernesto attends California State University, Long Beach and is an employee of LA’s Office of the City Attorney.

Ernesto’s family struggled financially after his parents divorced and his sister ran away. When his father lost his job, he and Ernesto were homeless. “After finally getting my first job, I made work my one and only priority,” he writes. “I had to fight for survival for myself and my father. After a few years of working, I finally began taking classes in a community college.

“I am happy and proud of myself. As a first generation gay Mexican American, the obstacles I’ve overcome have made me who I am today — resilient, committed, disciplined, kind hearted and honest.”

Valerie Estala

Valerie is the daughter of Martha Diaz, Dept. of Human Resources, County of Los Angeles.

Valerie is a third-year student at Cal Poly Pomona, pursuing a degree in animal science.

“I am a recipient of the McNairs Scholars Program, where I am given the opportunity to do graduate-level research under the advice of experienced faculty mentors,” she writes.

Valerie is inspired by her late father’s humanitarian outreach. “If I could take his same approach and use it for the care of animals and their environment, I believe I would be able to cement my own legacy of conserving and rehabilitating our wildlife.

“My hopes are to obtain a Master’s degree in wildlife science at Oregon State University. I plan to use this degree to combat the effects of global warming, waste management, deforestation and many other environmental factors on our wildlife.” She also hopes to open her own animal rehabilitation center.

Everet Fink

Everet is the son of Ross Fink, Retired, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Everet is about to graduate from California State University, Northridge, specializing in criminal justice, a field in which he wants to become an expert.

Throughout college, Everet has been a part of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Alpha Phi Sigma. He has also been a tutor for Reading Partners and has volunteered at food pantries in Santa Clarita.

“I strongly believe in mastering time management and being an effective communicator,” he writes. “Time is something we can’t get back … I always aim to be a better version of myself; without exception, there is something you can find to improve on a daily basis.”

Zorianna Garcia

Zorianna is the daughter of Carlos Garcia, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Zorianna is an incoming student at UCLA, studying for a biology degree.

“Education has always been really important to both me and my family, and I truly have a passion for learning and going to school,” she writes. Zorianna is a first-generation college student and the first of her siblings to attend a four-year university directly out of high school.

In high school, Zorianna was class president. “I went through multiple meetings with our school’s administrators, and I brought back several school traditions that had been lost to the pandemic. This was my greatest accomplishment at my high school, and I feel proud to have reignited these traditions and left a positive legacy at my school.”

Jenna Guerrero

Jenna is the daughter of Marco Guerrero, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.

Jenna is a transfer student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying for a Bachelor of science degree in physics.

At community college. Jenna acquired two jobs, one as a laboratory technician in the physics department, another as a research assistant to a NASA chief exoplanet scientist. “I got to visit Palomar Observatory and operate the 200-inch Hale Telescope to gather my own data,” she writes. “My experiences at community college have filled me with great excitement for university.”

One constant for Jenna is her love and passion for physics. “It is the quintessential science, the one subject that lays the bedrock for all the others. I plan to work either in the semiconductor or aerospace industry, or go on to get my doctorate in physics and immerse myself in research concerning astrophysics, quantum physics, computers or neuroscience.”

Paloma Hashemi

Paloma is the daughter of Pauline Chan, Retired, LADOT, City of Los Angeles.

Paloma is an incoming student at the University of California, Berkeley.

“My name is Paloma Ying Hashemi. It always prompts questions from people I meet,” she explains. “‘I am named after a song, doves, and the Hispanic community in LA,’ I say. My name tells a unique story about an Iranian-Chinese-American girl who loves music, values peace, and most importantly, loves to tell stories.” Inspired by her acting class, Paloma initiated a student-run production of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves at her school, which she acted in and produced.

She began volunteering for Anchorless Productions, a student-run organization that gives people with developmental disabilities opportunities to perform live theatre. “I have been a part of five productions. Through the first musical I directed, Seussical, I strived to show my students that differences do not diminish an individual’s value.”

Andrew Herrera

Andrew is the son of Art Herrera, Retired, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.

Andrew plans to attend California State University, Long Beach this fall.

“Human body functions are amazing to me. This has sparked the desire for me to enter the medical field,” he writes. “I desire to take my love for science and to serve others as a medical doctor. Ultimately, my goal is to attend the University of Southern California to complete my undergrad education and then apply at Keck School of Medicine to fulfill my goal in becoming an anesthesiologist.”

After medical school, Andrew will use his knowledge and experience in a four-year residency program. He also plans to give back by working with Doctors Without Borders.

Christian Herrero

Christian is the nephew of Arlene Herrero, Club Vice President of Business Development.

Christian will attend California State University, San Marcos this fall.

“In addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I have taken part in a variety of extracurricular activities, such as running various clubs and groups, mentoring younger students, and volunteering to help with community events such as parades and cleanups,” he writes. “The clubs that allowed me to participate in these events include Key Club and Interact Club.

“I’ve always been interested in working in science, therefore I’ve seized any chance to advance my knowledge. I have taken part in multiple programs related to my future plans, one being a class to become a certified nursing assistant, which puts me one step closer to becoming a registered nurse. I think that with the help of this scholarship, I’ll be able to keep working hard to achieve my academic and professional objectives.”

Emily Hibma

Emily is the daughter of Firefighter Dan Hibma, LAFD, City of Los Angeles.

Emily attends California State University, Long Beach and plans to graduate in Spring 2024 with a Bachelor’s degree in marine biology. In Fall 2023, Emily plans to move to Catalina Island to study at the Wrigley Marine Institute.

“I will be able to have hands-on scholastic experiences with other marine biology majors,” she writes. “A handful of students will be living on the island, giving us the opportunity to apply our knowledge in the classroom, in the labs, as well as out in the water. I have grown up sailing to Catalina Island, which has fueled my passion for conserving the ocean and understanding the intricate details of marine ecosystems.

“By obtaining a job specializing in conservation, I hope to be able to conserve and protect the environments around us.”

Anthony Hom

Anthony is the son of Capt. Japhet Hom, LAPD, and Officer Roselia Hom, Retired, LAPD, City of Los Angeles.

Anthony plans to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) at Newport, Rhode Island, from July 2023.

It has been his ambition to become a U.S. Marine and to serve as a Marine Corps pilot since his visit to Camp Pendleton in 2022 when he was involved with the USMC Devil Pups Youth Program. “I was in a leadership position and while involved in the program, I was exposed to many different careers in the Marines, one of those being aviation,” he writes.

Anthony says he was bullied in school both for his shorter stature and for his mixed heritage, having a Chinese-American father and Mexican-American mother. He explains that channeled those experiences into boxing and was ranked number seven in the United States. Now, he trains other boxing students, conducts boxing classes and always speaks to others about bullying. “I express the importance of staying physically fit and always having self-confidence.”

Dre’londe Johnson

Dre’Londe is the son of Lynetta Johnson, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Dre’Londe plans to attend California State University, San Marcos in the fall. He is both an athlete and a dancer.

“I have been blessed to have an opportunity to enrich the lives of others through dance,” he writes. “I have danced with Sophisticated Dance, Inc. since the age of three.”

During his junior year, Dre’Londe endured a life-altering injury. “My injury occurred during the first game of the season. My rehab was challenging and complex; I had been robbed of my junior year experience by a dirty play,” he says.

Recovery became more difficult as time went on, and Dre’Londe has experience of how critical therapy is to an injured athlete. “As an athlete and performer, whether on the football field, on the track, or the stage, I always put my best foot forward, listen to God, and allow my God-given gifts to be a platform for me to reach other young people.”

Andrea Leger

Andrea is the wife of McKandy Leger, Dept. of Human Resources, County of Los Angeles.

Andrea is a wife, mother and student who delayed pursuing a Master’s degree to raise her family. She hopes to become a school counselor when she graduates from the University of La Verne this December.

Andrea has worked as a school counselor intern, facilitating small groups and classroom workshops, and individual counseling — teaching lessons on conflict resolution, social-emotional support, and cyber-bullying.

Previously, Andrea worked in the Dept. of Human Services, County of Los Angeles, as a social worker for eight years, serving pregnant and parenting teens who were in the foster care system, who were dealing with substance abuse, and were in the juvenile justice system.

“My success is a success for all those mothers who are thinking about going back to school but think that life is too difficult to try,” she writes.

Sally Melendez

Sally is the daughter of Cesar Melendez, Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, State of California.

Sally is a student at the University of California, Davis.

“I’m committed to earning my Bachelor of science degree in psychology,” she writes. “I plan to continue my education and attend medical school and become a forensic psychiatrist.”

Sally took Advance Placement and honors classes all four years of high school and was on varsity soccer, cross-country, and track and field teams. “I was on the student council, an ambassador, a member of CSF (California Scholarship Federation), and a part of the National Honors Society. I was a part of many clubs and started my own, participated in community service, and would be the MC at assemblies and pep rallies.”

Leonardo Mesinas

Leonardo is the son of Concepcion Mesinas, Los Angeles Public Library, City of Los Angeles.

Leonardo attends the University of California, Davis.

Leonardo worked as an adviser for students of history, economics and East Asian studies. “I’m able to advise students for their future planning surrounding the attainment of their degree and the opportunities offered by our department,” he writes. The job led him to study sociology and immigration. “I saw familiar images of my hometown of East LA in a lecture on present policies.

“Since then, I’ve been developing a deeper interest in pursuing immigration in my studies and as a career. I’ve enrolled in two classes in immigration for the fall quarter and plan to take other related courses throughout the remainder of my time in college. For my fourth year, I’ve planned to apply for the honors program in history and develop a thesis around migration history.”

Giselle Montiforte

Giselle is the daughter of Phil Montiforte, LADWP.

Giselle plans to attend Chaminade University in Hawaii this fall.

A life-changing event for Giselle was a trip to Mexico with her sister in 2021. While in Mexico, Giselle helped her aunt in volunteer work with foster children “giving them company, donating necessities, and even teaching them how to surf,” she writes.

“Seeing these brave kids overcome the extremely challenging situation that they were in, it lifted my spirits and gave me some hope. These kids showed more compassion, strength and kindness than I have ever seen anyone project. These kids inspired me to believe that even though there will be situations and circumstances that will try to diminish the fire in you, you have to try your very best to keep that fire alive.”

Isabella Moreno

Isabella is the daughter of Kimberly Williams, California Highway Patrol, State of California.

Isabella is a student at California State University, Long Beach, with career plans to become a forensic psychologist.

In the last six months, Isabella has attended seminars in criminology and psychology and has applied for the Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Certificate Program in California State University, Long Beach to gain hands-on experience in forensics.

In high school, Isabella was a competitive athlete on the women’s varsity wrestling team. “I was committed to bettering myself not only physically but mentally as well. While I took some extreme measures to make weight on the day of a tournament, I believe that this experience made me mentally stronger. I plan on applying to graduate school within the next two years to achieve my long-term career goal of becoming a successful forensic psychologist.”

Crystal Nunez

Crystal is the daughter of Adriana Delgado, Dept. of Social Services, County of Los Angeles.

Crystal is a student at California State University, Los Angeles, studying for a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Her professional goal is to work with the LAPD and FBI.

Crystal is the oldest sister of three, and the first person in the household to go to college.

“I still have a very long way to go, but I am so excited for the day I call my parents to let them know that I have made it,” she writes. “I know it’s going to be a long journey, but I am willing to work every day for it. By being the first person to go to college in my household, I will do my very best to achieve a lot. I will be opening a lot of opportunities and doors, not only for myself but for my younger sisters as well.”

Nathan Pa

Nathan is the son of Gia Pa, General Services, City of Los Angeles.

Nathan is an incoming student at the University of California, Irvine.

“Growing up, I was surrounded by many family members who went to college, who all encouraged me to do the same,” he writes. “I want to major in computer engineering and get a Bachelor’s degree. I chose computer engineering because I enjoy hands-on work with actual parts compared to the theoretics of computer science.”

In high school, Nathan was in CSF and aerospace and aviation clubs and also took part in the Service League. “I volunteer at school activities like dances and Tartar Knights, where we help out the city of Torrance and at school events.” In freshman and sophomore year, Nathan played basketball for the school team.

Cameron Palacios

Cameron is the son of Shirley Palacios, Harbor, City of Los Angeles.

Cameron is in his sophomore year at UCLA.

Cameron volunteered with San Pedro High School Relay for Life and UCLA Relay for Life teams, which raise funds to support caregiving for cancer patients and survivors. “I was able to witness the resilience and valor of cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.,” he writes. “It provided me with a newfound determination to overcome my own challenges.

“I am well acquainted with the impact cancer can have on families and friends. In 2018, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. My family was devastated, but … my grandmother survived.

“With my passion for math, I wish to guide underrepresented communities towards success, and I hope that these communities will find a larger place within top universities.”

Jack Patschull

Jack is the grandchild of Delbert Patschull, Airports, City of Los Angeles.

Jack plans to attend the University of California, Irvine in the fall.

“While attending UCI, I plan on taking challenging classes in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in game design,” Jack writes. “I’ve chosen this major because videogames have done me a great favor by providing me with new friends and helping me through some mentally challenging times (especially during the pandemic).”

Now, Jack wants to give people “the same joy that I felt playing some of my favorite games, so I chose this major to accomplish just that, making games that people will enjoy and (hopefully) remember.

“I believe that people can seriously be changed, or at the very least silently influenced by the media as a whole. I do not think I would be the person that I am today without the games that I have played along the way.”

Angelica Pena

Angelica is the daughter of Patricia Pena, Dept. of Public Social Services, County of Los Angeles.

Angelica continues on her path to realizing her childhood dream of working at NASA. Now in her junior year at the University of California, Berkeley, Angelica reflects on her journey that began in Compton.

“I have had to exert additional effort to compensate for my different academic background,” she writes. “I vividly recall being consumed by the fear of failure and grappling with imposter syndrome. However, these experiences of adversity have ultimately propelled me to secure a research position at the Embodied Dexterity Lab in Berkeley.” This summer, Angelica has gained experience in underwater robotics, which has strengthened her commitment to graduate study and a future in research.

“Embracing my diverse experiences and leveraging the lessons learned from overcoming obstacles, I am confident that I can make a lasting impact in academia, research and mentorship.”

Monica Ramorino

Monica is the daughter of Monti Ramorino, LADWP.

Monica is a student at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

“Witnessing how nurses and therapists were able to be a part of somebody’s entire life was a form of healthcare I did not even know could exist,” she writes. “I solidified my desire to want to attend physical therapy school after completion of my doctorate as I firsthandedly witnessed how different people’s lives could change just off a few interactions.”

This field experience keeps Monica focused on her studies. “Being able to remember the many stories of the different patients I have worked with and how much progress I get to be a part of is what makes physical therapy so rewarding.”

Cruz Romero

Cruz is an engineer for the California Regional Water Control Board, State of California, and is pursuing his Master’s degree in civil engineering at California State University, Fresno.

“The foundational knowledge gained from my degrees provides a stable foundation that has allowed me to continually grow as I take on more complex projects,” he writes. “The graduate program has also helped me develop more technical skills. In the real world, projects have consequences and environmental effects that can undermine an individual or groups standard of living.”

Born and raised in Fresno, Cruz has interned with the California Water Institute at Fresno State, and assisted in a public outreach effort at the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency, “helping survey residents from a disadvantaged community to learn more about their current domestic water situation. Events such as this and the consolidation project I worked on during my senior capstone project, opened my eyes to what I really wanted to do.”

Nancy Ruiz

Nancy is the daughter of Guil Cortez, Metropolitan State Hospital, State of California.

Nancy is a transfer student at California State University, Los Angeles.

Nancy was born with additional health needs due to having a cleft palate, and writes that her family struggled following her mother’s death in a traffic accident. She and her siblings lived in foster care for some time.

“Throughout my journey, I have faced numerous challenges personally, professionally and academically,” she explains. “As a first-generation college student, it was difficult for me to navigate through the educational system. This scholarship would help me with my tuition, books, food for me and my baby, and travel expenses.

“My experiences/exposure to gang violence, the foster care system, substance abuse, and unemployment along with many other traumatic experiences motivates me to pursue my career in social work.”

Kristina Sabad

Kristina is the granddaughter of Red Medina, Retired, Public Works/Contract Administration, City of Los Angeles, and Lupe Medina, Retired, Administrative Service Rep, Employees Club of California.

Kristina is an incoming student at the University of Southern California, where she plans to double major in public policy and Spanish.

Kristina attended San Juan Hills High School and, out of a graduating class of 700 students, she won “Stallion of the Year,” “which recognizes one student who exemplifies exceptional school spirit, academic achievement, strong leadership, good citizenship and involvement in school activities. I have strived to be an exceptional example of tenacity and hard work, constantly challenging myself academically and creatively.”

Kristina has also volunteered with San Juan Hills branch of No Place 4 Hate, the California Anti-Defamation League and the O.C. Human Relations Commission Youth Leadership Institute. “I have learned to utilize my voice as a powerful tool for advocacy.”

Nicole Salazar

Nicole is the daughter of Zaida Arroyo, Probation Dept., County of Los Angeles.

Nicole is a sophomore at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo.

Nicole has made the Dean’s List in both semesters and plays for the women’s soccer program. A previous injury in high school has made her more appreciative of her sporting abilities: “I came out a stronger person,” she writes. “I thankfully made a comeback and was able to commit to being a student-athlete, which was my dream.

“Another achievement was being one of eight students chosen to travel to Mexico for a class to study the negative effects of tourism on indigenous communities – I worked alongside indigenous communities in Guanajuato and Yucatan. This trip greatly changed my perspective on tourism.

“My career goal is to become a forensic psychologist and work within a Los Angeles correctional facility.”

Isabel Sanchez

Employee of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles.

Isabel is a student at California State University, Los Angeles, and an employee of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles.

Isabel writes that she was in an accident in 2021 after her second year of college and worked for a year to pay off her medical bills. “Once I finished paying off my debt, I pursued personal development courses at LACI, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.”

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) is a non-profit organization helping low-income communities with workforce development and providing resources to accelerate the rise of clean technology.

Isabel pursued courses through LACI and completed an internship at a start-up, ChargerHelp.

“I feel more confident than ever to push through my college career with the support of the team at LACI. I became passionate about pursuing a career in the clean-tech sector.”

Caleb Taylor

Caleb is the nephew of Jonathan James, Los Angeles Port Police, City of Los Angeles.

Caleb studies at Biola University.

Caleb has been able to financially support himself while attending school. He was able to fully fund his first few semesters of college, and he purchased his vehicle after leasing it for a few years. “There are not many 20-year-olds that can say this – and I am extremely grateful to have the ability and stamina to work towards these accomplishments,” he writes.

Caleb’s next goal is graduating with his business degree, after which he plans a career in business “that will not only help others in their financial goals and aspirations but will help me to support myself and one day a family. I also would like to aggressively attack and pay off the small student loans that I have. Doing so will help me to begin to save for my future life.”

Patrick Venezia

Patrick is the son of James Venezia, Public Works/Street Services, City of Los Angeles.

Patrick is a student at Pasadena City College.

Patrick is an Eagle Scout and has participated in the Boy Scouts for more than 10 years, which he credits with improving his leadership skills.

Patrick plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a Bachelor’s degree and ultimately work as a cyber-security analyst, as data protection is an area of interest for him.

“A close relative of mine worked for a company that was hacked and blackmailed to pay a ransom,” he writes. “The company refused to pay, leading to the loss of much of their valuable data. I believe this event may have been prevented if the company had the proper security checks in place.”

Amira Villaneda

Amira is the daughter of Daniel Villaneda, Office of Finance, City of Los Angeles.

Amira is an incoming student at California State University, Fullerton.

Amira succeeded in her high school goal of leading in three different areas: academics, sports and service. “I graduated with honors, was the captain of the softball team, and was a selected student ambassador,” she writes.

In addition, Amira managed to balance “being involved and accomplishing all of these things while having to go through quarantine, online learning, anxiety, cyber bullying, injury and [other] issues … I knew my goals going into high school were making great memories and having a great time, and I was able to not allow all of the struggling to get in the way of that. The thing I am most proud of is the relationship I created with God and my faith, because it truly helped me persevere. Although it wasn’t easy, it has made me a better person.”

Jordan Washington

Jordan is the grandson of Angela Franklin, Retired, LADWP, City of Los Angeles.

Jordan is a student at California State University, Northridge, studying for a major in political science and a minor in communications.

“I am preparing to navigate the complex world of law and advocacy,” he writes. “Through my unwavering passion for justice, I believe the legal system can serve as a powerful catalyst for change.”

Jordan is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which he says is a brotherhood dedicated to leadership, scholarship and service. “Through this fraternity, I have honed my organizational and leadership skills while participating in various community initiatives.

“One notable experience through my church involved feeding and washing the feet of the homeless, an act of compassion that humbled and rewarded me.

“My commitment to academic excellence is also recognized through membership in the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and participation in the on-campus honors program.”