Monday, September 14, 2015

Scholarships awarded to 128 students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges

     More than $85,000 in scholarships were awarded to 128 students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca College in events Saturday that celebrated student achievements despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles.

          The scholarship award ceremonies were presented by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, the philanthropic arm of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

District leaders congratulated the students for earning the awards and praised the donors who contributed the money to make the scholarships possible,

"We want to honor you for the hard work you have done and inspire you to continue," District Chancellor Cindy L. Miles told the honorees. "And we want to thank our scholarship sponsors, who are paying it forward so our students can achieve their dreams."

Grossmont College Osher scholars and
 President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh (3rd from left)
At Grossmont College, 69 students received scholarships totaling more than $43,000, while at Cuyamaca College, almost $42,000 was awarded to 59 students.

Many of the students were awarded Osher scholarships, the result of a statewide community college scholarship fund established by the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2011. Osher, a Bay area philanthropist, donated $50 million to the fund and challenged colleges to raise money to establish the scholarships.

Lawrance Ayers, Sr., (right) receives his Osher scholarship
from Cuyamaca College scholarship specialist Ernie Williams

Grossmont and Cuyamaca College raised almost $850,000 and were two of the 31 institutions in the state that reached their fundraising goals set by the Osher Foundation. Through a statewide endowment fund,  scholarships that will be awarded in perpetuity to deserving students at the two colleges.

Twenty-two Grossmont College students and 23 Cuyamaca College students received Osher scholarships, with dozens more students having their scholarships renewed for another year. 

Excerpts from essays written by the students who received the scholarships revealed some of the challenges they have faced on their path toward getting an education.  

·         Melissa Murphey, winner of the Steven D. Price Memorial Culinary Arts Scholarship at Grossmont College, said her family used to get food from church pantries when they didn't have enough to eat. She saw creating delicious meals from the food packages as a challenge, and now wants to become a chef at a high-end restaurant.  

·         Kalisha Haywood, winner of the Christy Seiler Davis Memorial Scholarship at Grossmont College, was abandoned by her parents when she was 14, and her brother was later killed. She is a 35-year-old single mother of three, and wants to become a nurse. 

·         Antwane Collier, winner of the Cuyamaca College Foundation Bernard Osher Scholarship, lost his home and lived in his car for 18 months after losing his job as a deliveryman following a back injury. He is planning to transfer to San Diego State University and open his own business. 

·         Thamer Basaka, who received the Rancho San Diego-Spring Valley Rotary Bernard Osher Scholarship at Cuyamaca College, immigrated to the United States from Iraq in 2009. She now speaks English fluently and has a 3.8 grade point average. She is planning to transfer to San Diego State University and obtain a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

The joyful tone of the day was punctuated by a trace of tears for some scholarship sponsors who created memorial funds to honor deceased loved ones. Marcia Seiler presented a scholarship she created to honor her daughter, Christy Seiler Davis, a Grossmont College evening student who died in the 2003 Cedar fire. Dick Nolan created a scholarship for an engineering student to honor his son, Ivan Nolan, a project manager for Rudolph & Sletten who led construction of the Griffin Center, where the Grossmont College scholarship ceremony was held.

To donate or learn more about the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, go to the website at , email the foundation at, or call (619) 644-7109.