The 2013 Relief Scholarships help a new group of graduates continue their education
The Relief’s Scholarship Awards Program offers financial assistance to those who exemplify academic and personal achievements. Created specifically for dependents of members, the grants go to graduating high school students who aspire to continue their education. And this year’s group of winners embodies the perfect combination of drive and achievement.
Leo K. Najarian Memorial Scholarship
Kaycee Ching, winner of the Leo K. Najarian Memorial Scholarship, was an active student. She participated in many clubs and played basketball for 12 years. In the fall, she’ll start her college education at UC Berkeley where she intends to major in psychology. After that, she hopes to go to medical school. Receiving the award humbles her. She said, “It’s a great honor… I’m thankful the Relief Association was able to do that.”
With the burden of raising tuition eased, she plans to contribute to the community. “Because I don’t have to maybe work,” she said, “I can do other things like help at the hospital or be a part of community service clubs.”
Bill Goss Scholarship
Headed for Loyola Marymount University, Bill Goss Scholarship award winner Adam Guerrero would ultimately love to be a sports agent. He studied hard at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, taking advanced placement calculus, physics, English and psychology, but he plays hard too. On campus Adam was a JV and varsity member of both the baseball and football teams. Off campus he’s a sometime surfer and oft time skateboarder.
At Loyola, Adam will major in economics and minor in philosophy. His favorite philosopher is Alan Watts, appreciated for bringing Eastern philosophy to a Western audience. He wants to study economics because he believes that society is economics based. If not as a sports agent, Adam will use his education to advance in the corporate field.
When not tearing up the ball field, shredding half-pipes or cramming for exams, Adam volunteered with his church group, lending a hand on the nearby Pala reservation. During the year he helped to distribute food to the needy, and helped to organize the toy drive during the holiday season.
Knowing he has a tough and expensive road ahead, Adam, son of 25-year LAFD veteran Ralph Guerrero, applied for the LAFRA scholarships to ease the financial burden for his parents. He said, “I was thankful that scholarships are granted by LAFRA. It’s really difficult for middleclass families to afford higher education these days.”
As a cross-country runner (and one of a set of triplets), Michael Togneri knows about stamina. Not only did he compete in foot races, but he also was part of his high school’s mountain bike team, for which he participating in races and competitions all over California. He also served as a leader for his school’s incoming freshman, assuring they had a smooth transition, and arranged student retreats. In addition, he’s a Post Leader Assistant in the Los Angeles County Explorer Program and is preparing to become certified.
He’ll attend Loyola Marymount University’s Business School. After college, he wants to become a firefighter, a profession he’s already familiar with thanks to his family and his fundraising efforts for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
Winning the scholarship will make things easier on his family financially. “We have three children all going to college at the same time,” he said. “So, it’s definitely going to help [my parents].”
The grant will help him add extra classes and for that, he’s very grateful. For him, it’s just another reminder that receiving and giving go hand-in-hand. He said, “I’m going to continue to give back to my community.”
Throughout high school, Aaron Vilaubi was part of the baseball program and the Beach Club, which organized shoreline cleanup efforts. He also participated in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, a foundation that pairs high school sophomores with mentors and advisors to give them leadership skills students can use in their schools and communities.
Aaron will study Business Administration at Chapman University and hopes to minor in Public Relations. Because of his love of music, he’d eventually like to get into the music industry as a manager for a record label.
When citing the reasons he’s achieved the things he has, Aaron lists his relationship with his mother as the main driver. And receiving the scholarship highlights for him the importance of family. He said, “That relationship I have with my mother is so special. And to receive this from Widows & Orphans, it reminds me that I’m truly blessed to have that relationship with my mother.”
The financial assistance also reminds him to pay it forward. “I’m aware of my roots and I know it’s important to give back,” he said, “I can’t for get where I came from.”
Like Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin before her, Memorial Scholarship winner Kenna Arana admires the structure of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. And in just six years of piano practice, Kenna has achieved a “Level 10” certificate of merit from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. This program requires students to strive for excellence in performance, technique, ear training, sight reading/singing, and music theory.
Kenna is graduating from St Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora. There she’s a member of the Regent’s cross country team who compete at nearby Bonelli Park. Her best time on the three mile course is 21.03.
Heading for the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City, Kenna will make the campus of Columbia University her home for the next four years. “I loved the campus there and the academic program that encourages student exploration,” she said.
Kenna is thinking of majoring in English and minoring in music at Columbia. She took a class in government in high school, which peaked her interest in the law and hopes to continue to law school after she earns her bachelor’s degree.
Off campus, Kenna has engaged in volunteer work. The highlight was helping to organize and recruit for the Jackie Bristow Memorial Foundation 5K charity run.
In addition to LAFRA’s Memorial Scholarship, Kenna earned a Spanish scholarship from St. Lucy’s to help make her academic dreams a reality.
As an upperclassman, Allison Piccione helped mentor the freshman at her high school. In fact, she was the secretary for the program. But, her leadership skills didn’t stop at showing the new folks the ropes. She was also the Creative Writing Editor of the school’s literary magazine. Outside of school, she helped put on Valentine’s Day and Christmas dances for those with special needs and raised money for various charities.
She’s going to Cal State San Marcos for her first two years of college, and then plans to transfer to San Diego State. By majoring in Mass Media and minoring in Film Production, she hopes to kick off a career in marketing.
She’s thankful for receiving the scholarship and for her father, who led by example. She said, “I feel incredibly grateful to this organization. I’m really proud that my father was involved in an organization like [Widows & Orphans].”
The experience inspired her to continue helping others. “Hopefully, what has been giving to me,” she said, “I can someday give back donating to other people and donating to organizations.” Her long-term plan involves creating her own scholarship fund to help others like her.
As a cheerleader, Jessica Urquiza helped lift the spirits of those at her high school for four years. When the Relief rallied around her family after he father’s death, it inspired her to look for ways to help off the field.
At Cal State San Marcos, she’ll study nursing. Her long-term goal includes getting a Master’s degree so that she can become a Nurse Practitioner.
She was honored to receive the scholarship award and acknowledged the blessing of being chosen out of the many applicants. For her, the money will offset costs of books and classes.
She feels the best way to show her appreciation, is to give back to the community. “I would definitely like to volunteer to thank the people who did award me this scholarship.”
The Relief wishes them and other winners Andrew Apodaca and Marissa Casanova good luck as they continue learning and growing. More information about the Relief Scholarship opportunities can be found at lafra.org/scholarship.
By David Vienna, LAFRA Staff