Bob Wright and President Robert both proudly announced that in addition to La Quinta High School Counselor Alice Pedersen, we had with us today 6 of this year’s 10 Rotary Club of La Quinta’s Scholarship recipients in attendance.  This is always one of my favorite programs of the year as we receive the heartfelt thanks from the students themselves and learn a little more about each of them and their plans for the future.  Each year the caliber of students chosen seems to go up with this year being no exception!
This year we have two “first of their family to attend college” recipients who with the help of the Dr. Carreon Foundation will each be receiving over $3,500.00 in scholarship monies.  They were both in attendance at our meeting today and began our program.  Itzel Chavez graduated 5th in her class and in addition to being a scholar she varsity lettered in three sports (Soccer, Track and Cross Country).  She is the only student who did not attend RYLA, but she did attend PRYDE while she was in middle school. She will be attending UCLA in the fall and majoring in Biology.  Joel Soto shared with us that he had a challenging upbringing and that his attendance at RYLA helped to set him on the right path.  He will be attending the University at La Verne in the fall to study criminology and law with hopes of furthering his education with a Rotary Peace Fellowship.  He hopes ultimately to find work in the justice system (parole officer, etc.) where he can make a difference in people’s lives.
In addition to our “First Generation” scholars we also gave scholarships to Sierra Murrell who was also a RYLA attendee who claims that her experience at RYLA helped her to “grow as a Leader”.  Sierra showed up to help out at the City of La Quinta Picnic where she demonstrated her excellent work ethic helping understaffed Rotarians cook and serve 1000 hot dogs in 3 hours!  Sierra will attend San Diego State University in the fall where she will major in chemistry and work toward a master’s degree in pharmacology.  She has already made contact with the San Diego Rotaract club!  Kayla Toth expressed her thanks and shared that her RYLA experience was one of the highlights of her High School experience.  She learned about leadership and her love of serving and helping others.  Kayla will be attending Azusa Pacific University in the fall and while currently ‘undeclared’ is her major she will be focused on business courses with the intent of one day being involved in some form a leadership role at a non-profit organization involved in helping those who are less fortunate.  Emile Maize expressed her gratitude for not only the scholarship but for her opportunity to attend RYLA as a junior and the again as a senior as a RYLA Alumni!  She will be attending the University of Oregon  where she will begin her studies as a Biology major and working toward someday being involved in the medical field and someday using her knowledge and skills she’ll bring relief and aid to those in need living in third world countries.  And finally, a very energetic and dynamic Olivia Saed Billingsly, this year’s Interact Club president, addressed the club and thanked us for the scholarship and her experience at RYLA which she described as, “the best high school experience ever!”  After attending RYLA she was so fired up that soon after she arrived home she became the Interact Club president and according to our president Robert did an excellent job this past year.  RYLA also gave her the confidence to pursue her dream of “service above self” while attending the Southern California Institute of Architecture where she hopes to someday become an architect.
Each of these students, in addition to be being well spoken, thankful and courteous was exceptional in their own way.  All of them had direct experience with Rotary with all but one of them attended RYLA… and the one who was unable to attend RYLA had attended PRYDE while in middle school.  And it showed!  It was clear to everyone present how their involvement with Rotary had a positive effect on their lives and that going forward how all of them will make great Rotarians someday.  Our congratulations go out to each of the 2019 La Quinta Rotary Scholarship recipients.  In addition, our special thanks go out to Marc Rosen and his scholarship committee for all of their hard work and the excellent job they did with this year’s selections.