In 2021, the 15th annual LAFD Merit Scholar Awards Ceremony were held honoring the academic excellence and demonstrated leadership of college-bound children of our members. The Merit Scholar Awards are cash grants, made possible through the Jean Perkins Foundation, of up to $30,000 ($7,500 per year while the student continues to be enrolled and making normal progress toward a college degree). To be eligible, a student must be the child or stepchild of an active or fallen LAFD sworn employee. The eligible student must be a high school senior or college freshman, who will be enrolled in the fall as a full-time student in an accredited college or university. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit. The single most important factor is academic achievement, but the all-civilian Selection Committee considered other relevant criteria, including personal character and extracurricular accomplishments.
This year’s awardees were students who demonstrated excellence in academic studies, good character, high moral standards, leadership, distinction in extra-curricular activities, personal accomplishments and a potential for future success. The LAFD Merit Scholarship Fund Board of Directors had the difficult task of selecting the top candidates from an extremely competitive pool.
The 2021 LAFD Merit Scholar Award Recipients are: Fashion Castillo-Delgadillo, daughter of Firefighter III Erik San Martin; Maya Matthews, daughter of Fire Inspector Lance Matthews; Sally Stuart, daughter of Captain I Chad Stuart; Nick Sweet, son of Captain I Nathan Sweet (all bios provided below).
This year’s runner-up award winners, Leia Alvarado, Aidan Cessor, Bryce Kitahata, Rebecca Lee, Lauren Smith, Lily Speakman, Lael Willliams, are to be congratulated for their outstanding merits. Each received a one-time grant of $5,000.
The winner of this year’s “Best Essay” award of $5,000 is Bryce Kitahata. The Community Service Award was presented to Johnathan Augustine, who received $5,000 generously co-sponsored by the LAFD Foundation.
We would like to thank Mr. James Carroll III and Mr. Joe Connolly, Executive Board Members of the Jean Perkins Foundation and the LAFD Merit Scholarship Fund’s Board of Directors, Dick Barrett, President, ohn Anglin Secretary, Robert Nicholas Treasurer, Jim Ford, Jay Langan, Andrew McDonald, Brian Sullivan, Molly Taylor, and Jim Vincent for their dedication and support of our members and their children. We are also grateful to the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation for their co-sponsorship of the “Best Essay” award. The announcement for the 2022 competition should be posted early January 2022, at www.lafd.org/scholarship.
Each year our past scholarship winners are invited to actively participate during the awards ceremony, by giving the Invocation, Benediction and addressing our new scholarship winners. We extend our appreciation to this year’s participants Kenna Arana, Gabrielle Olivas, Jessica M. Reiner, and Michael Rodriguez.
2021 LAFD MERIT SCHOLAR AWARD RECIPIENT BIOGRAPHIES
FASHION CASTILLO- DELGADILLO is a graduating senior from Oxford Academy (OA) and the daughter of Firefighter III Erik San Martin, assigned to Fire Station 43, (16 years LAFD). Fashion will be attending Biola University, majoring in Public Relations & Strategic Communications. Fashion hopes to become a future business leader with the sports industry. Fashion enjoys volunteering. On campus, she served as: Student Ambassador, VP of the ASB Senate, President and Summit Facilitator of Raising Student Voices and Participation, and member of HOSA- Future Health Professionals and the American Red Cross. Fashion has embraced the role of community outreach. She worked with other students to develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshop for underserved students. During her sophomore year, Fashion and her project partner applied, interviewed and secured a $5,000 grant from Dragon Kim Foundation. They implemented their sports medicine camp, Guiding Outstanding Active Learners (G.O.A.L.), to help low-income children in the Anaheim area learn about the importance of staying healthy and active through sports and science. Their Social Entrepreneurship Program received Congressional Recognition from Lou Correa, U.S. Representative for California’s 46th congressional district. During the pandemic, Fashion worked with two COVID-19 initiatives, “Delivering with Dignity Orange County” (DWDOC) and “Latino Health Access” to help deliver nutritious meals to families in need to reduce exposure to COVID-19. As Team Coordinator with DWDOC, Fashion coordinated from five to twenty volunteers making deliveries. A majority of her time was spent recruiting, and coordinating volunteers or marketing through social media posts and partnering with non-profit organizations. She had no problem cold-calling companies and groups seeking information or support. In addition to her community work, Fashion is a standup bassist, played varsity softball and varsity soccer. Fashion’s awards and honors include: Varsity Softball Most Improved Player 2019, Patriot Recognition Honor 2019, Advanced Strings Directors Award 2018, AP Scholar Award with Honor 2020. Fashion graduates with a 4.2 GPA.
MAYA MATTHEWS, is a freshman attending the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the daughter of Fire Inspector Lance Matthews assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau (27 years LAFD). Her major is Neuroscience. She hopes to be a general practitioner and social rights advocate, providing underserved communities much-needed health services. She graduated from Immaculate Heart High School (IHHS)in 2020. Maya was involved in several community service activities. One of her favorite community service activities was tutoring elementary school students at “Reading Partners,” a national non-profit. Many of the kids she tutored were from disadvantaged families. Maya also donated books for all reading levels. During her senior year at IHHS, Maya joined “Newground – Muslim and Jews Inspiring Change,” (MAJIC), a small religious fellowship. Covid-19 disrupted their plans to make a film about human rights violations. However, the group decided to turn their attention toward the pandemic and partnered with the Red Cross as hospitals were in dire need of blood. Maya was responsible for outreach and registration for a blood drive. She created an online following and within two weeks, they received 500 pledges. Organizing this blood drive helped Maya to feel less powerless during the chaos of the pandemic and it saved many lives. For five years, Maya could not pretend that a homeless situation did not exist in Los Angeles. Maya has been involved with “Friends in Deed” (FID), an interfaith organization supporting homeless and at-risk neighbors so they can rebuild their lives. FID has two programs, a food bank and a day care center supporting homeless women. Seeing the vulnerability of women living on the streets, Maya’s focus has been collecting items for women and monetary donations from her school mates, friends, and family. In the summer of 2019, Maya traveled to Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, to meet and lobby California elected officials. She met with representatives and officials urging them to continue fighting to pass homelessness prevention and fair housing legislation. Maya’s advocacy for legislation that prevents homelessness continues to be Maya’s primary focus. Maya speaks three languages fluently, Tagalog, Arabic and English and when Maya is not devoting herself to school or community service, she loves to learn dances, bake and exercise for fun. Maya’s honors and awards include: Junior Class President 2018, ASB President 2019, Junior Varsity Capt. Basketball 2016-2018, Varsity Basketball 2019, Varsity Speech Captain of IHHS Debate team 2019-2020, competed in several State Debate Championship Tournaments 2018-2019 and the National Catholic Forensic League Debate Tournament 2019, Member of California Scholarship Federation 2016-2019, Scholar Athlete 2016 – 2019, Honor Roll 2016-2020, AP Scholar 2017 – 2019. Maya’s high school GPA was 4.2 and maintains a 4.0 GPA at UCLA.
SALLY STUART is a graduating senior from Los Alamitos High School (LAHS), and the daughter of Captain I Chad Stuart assigned to Fire Station 67 (21 years LAFD). She will be attending the University of Wisconsin majoring in Global Health. Sally was a member of the National Charity League (NCL), a mother-daughter participant program that embraces: philanthropy, leadership, confidence, culture, traditions, values, community connections and etiquette. Members of this philanthropic organization provide funds as well as required volunteer hours to each chapter’s immediate community. Sally is a member of the South Coast Chapter. Sally has served as Treasurer, VP Philanthropy, and Secretary for her Chapter. She has organized and participates in multiple fundraising and service events such as “Jonathon Jacques Children’s Cancer Torch Run” (for children battling cancer), “We Care” meal shopping for local families facing economic instability, volunteer babysitting at a women and children’s shelter, and “Operation Valentine” a project creating care packages for U.S. troops overseas. She has received the NCL Mission Bell and Rosebud Awards for volunteering over 100 hrs. a year. Sally has also volunteered as a Teacher Assistant at the Los Alamitos Education Foundation. During the summer she assists with teaching educational “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) classes to elementary students. Sally volunteers at an annual Los Alamitos Song and Cheer Camp for community children, and participates in the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure. Last year, she helped her LAHS Dance Team raise $29,500 for St. Jude and was one of the top five fundraisers. Sally is a four-year member of the LAHS Varsity Song Team. She has dedicated herself not only to her training as a dancer-athlete, but has proudly represented LAHS on the national stage. LAHS competes nationally at an elite level and has consistently placed in the top ten nationally. LAHS has won three national and two world titles in the Jazz, and Pom and Game Day Categories. For Sally, winning six coveted silk championship “White Jackets” represents all her hard work and dedication. Sally will be taking her dance career to a collegiate level as she has made the University of Wisconsin dance team. Sally has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to her academic, athletic and community service achievements. She pushes through and just does what she needs to do to maintain her outstanding achievements. Sally’s athletic honors and awards are: Scholar Athletic Award 2017-2021, Four Year Varsity Athlete Letter (Varsity Song and Cheer Team), National and World Jazz Champion United Dance Association (UDA) 2019, Twice National Game Day Champion and 1- UDA 2020, National Game Day Champion 2021, LAHS Athlete of the Week 2020, Orange County Varsity’s Student Section of the 2019-2020, National PTA Reflections Art Contest Winner for Original Dance Choreography 2020-2021. Sally’s academic honors and awards include: Academic Award of Excellence LAHS 2017-2020, National Honor Society 2017 – 2021, Mathematic Department Award 2019, Science Department Award 2019, Outstanding Achievement Award LAHS 2020, Career Pathway Graduation Chords for Achievement 2017-2021. Sally graduates with a 4.38 GPA.
NICK SWEET is a senior at Moorpark High School (MHS), and the son of Captain I Nathan Sweet assigned to Drill Tower 81 (16 years LAFD). Nick will be attending UC Berkeley majoring in Business Administration. Nick was a member of the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) from 2015 – 2020. As a Boy Scout, he was involved in many community service activities including nature planting, trash pickups, creating small community libraries, making blankets for the homeless and participating in food drives. Nick earned his America Eagle Scout badge, the highest achievement or rank attainable in the BSA program, by completing 21 merit badges; obtaining two leadership positions, and completing an Eagle Scout Project. Nick elected to build a picnic area with a handicapped accessible table for special education students. Nick consulted with elementary school officials. He recruited family and friends to assist. He held fundraisers and solicited funds, and materials from local merchants. Nick used his leadership and management skills to motivate his volunteers. They completed the project in 40 hours. The results were rewarding and created a lasting impact on the community. Smiles and laughter now exist where an empty lot once existed. During the Pandemic, Nick volunteered at the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging delivering food twice a week to 100 + senior citizens. In time, each delivery became easier and Nick made friends with the patrons. They were appreciative of the food that would support their lives for the next two weeks. He recognized his volunteerism was bringing value to their lives. Nick saw a need for those who were isolated to communicate. He founded the “Tech Connect School Club” which provided technological support to senior citizens. He contacted managers of neighborhood retirement homes and proposed training the residents to navigate their phone, computer, and the internet. He recruited 10 tech-savvy students and then connected each trainer with a resident. The residents learned how to Zoom so they could connect with their families during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Nick played baseball for four years at MHS as a catcher and a pitcher in his senior year. He completed training and demonstrated a thorough knowledge to become an eligible umpire for the Moorpark Little League for five years. Nick’s athletic awards and honors include: Captain, junior-Year; MHS Baseball Athletic Scholar Award, 2017-2020. His academic awards include: AP Scholar with Distinction Award, 2020, National Honor Society, 2018-2020, California Scholarship Federation member 2018 – 2020. Nick graduates with a 4.34 GPA.