Celebrating Our Scholars: The 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony!

By Izzy Ster

 An image of the 2018-2019 Words Alive Westreich Scholars!

An image of the 2018-2019 Words Alive Westreich Scholars!

On August 22nd, Words Alive held the annual Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) Award Ceremony at the San Diego Central Library to celebrate the 2018-2019 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship recipients.

Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books, and educational supplies, each scholar in the WAWS program is eligible to use their scholarship funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, transportation, and other living expenses. Words Alive awarded $37,500 in scholarships for the 2018-19 academic year. Nine of the scholars are returning to the program after participating in at least one other year and are receiving a $3,500 scholarship, while three first-time scholars are receiving a $2,000 scholarship from the organization’s Julia & Zoey Shenkman Award. Additionally, each scholarship recipient is matched with a mentor. The mentors meet with their student throughout the school year to help provide guidance and, often times, a shoulder to lean on.

This year, Words Alive is happy to present these 12 remarkable students with the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship: Paulina Aguilar-Lino (Southwestern College), Zaphire Alonso Duarte (San Diego State University), Destiny Frost (Cal State Bakersfield), Rose Gonzalez (San Diego State University), Diana Gonzalez-Soto (San Diego City College), Ulises Izucar (Point Loma Nazarene University), Aaron Juarez (Southwestern College), Zaira “Lexi” Martinez (San Diego State University), Alicia Osuna (San Diego City College), Daimeon Rodriguez (San Diego City College), Antonise Stewart (San Diego City College), and Domminiece Willis (San Diego State University).

One of the scholars, Daimeon Rodriguez, is a student at San Diego City College with plans to major in computer engineering and is proud to have made the Dean’s List this past year. Daimeon is from a rural part of Texas, an oil town, where many people don’t “make it out.” He said he is very grateful to receive the scholarship again and to continue his path towards a successful future. At the scholarship ceremony, he explained how his experience with Words Alive has changed his life for the better.

“[They’ve been] amazing. They’ve been great in giving [me] opportunities to apply for the [Westreich] scholarship and volunteer work.”

Rose Gonzalez, another returning scholar, was the highest scoring applicant for the past two years and is attending San Diego State University. During the ceremony, she presented her very moving application essay describing the hardships she has endured such as bearing witness to family members’ drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, and identifying as an unaccompanied youth. During her youth, Rose missed two years of school and would often stay with neighbors because her family would “simply forget about her.” It was in Tijuana where Rose said she realized what her mother was doing was “illegal and morally wrong.”

“I always knew I had the potential to create a purposeful future for myself, even if I was on my own,” she said. “To survive in life...I matured at a very young age. I had to understand that the only way to be successful was to not become like my mother and break our bond. I needed to keep going to school and receive an education to become an independent woman and an educated woman.”

All recipients had a mentor, family member, or close friend to present the scholarship to them, all of whom spoke very highly of the scholar, with continuous praise to the amount of drive, determination, and grit of each student. Many of the students have overcome unbelievable obstacles including homelessness, teen pregnancy, abusive relationships, familial drug and alcohol abuse, and juvenile delinquency. These are students who have taken the initiative to help create better lives for themselves, even if at times they believed that was not possible.

Congratulations to 2018-2019 recipients of the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship and thank you to those who joined us at this event. If you would like to learn more about the scholarship, visit our website at this link: www.wordsalive.org/teenservices/