Touching stories of determination and integrity were submitted
to our Personal Achievement Scholarship from students nationwide!
$15,000 Grand Prize Winner
Oroville High School - Oroville, CA
Class of 2020
After finding out that not many people in her town shared her enthusiasm for classical music, Forest and her brother in 2013 decided that they would organize a small chamber music group. Along with friends they would perform at a family restaurant for tips from the customers. As the group began to earn more tips, Forest suggested that they donate the money to local foster children.
During school breaks they would perform at the local retirement home. As they gained recognition they were invited to play at fundraisers and local community events. In 2014 Forest realized that music in her town was dying and the only music store was slowly going out of business.
Wanting other children to experience live music, Forest and her brother fundraised and hired other musicians to perform live concerts in the schools in their community. Eventually that grew into an annual music festival. A combination of free concerts for students and paid concerts for adults resulted in exposing the community to music while raising money to fund music programs in area schools.
In 2019, over 300 students participated from seven different schools, raising $15,000 for the music programs, and Las Plumas-Oroville High School Band received funds to perform at Carnegie Music Hall. The local music store was also saved from going out of business.
“Now, the music community is alive in Oroville, and the annual festival is one of the most popular events in town. When I was not performing, I was teaching. I used my twelve years of violin experience every Saturday when I gave free lessons at a local gallery” Forest proudly states.
$5,000 Second Place Winner
Northwood High School - Irvine, CA
Class of 2020
After finding out that many of her classmates thought STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to be solely for males, Erica decided to host a computing camp she named “BYTES OF CODE.” BYTES OF CODE targets underserved girls who have no previous experience with STEM or computing. To obtain the funding necessary to implement this project, Erica wrote numerous grant proposals and emailed other organizations. With much effort she was able to secure funding from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and got UC Irvine’s Information and Computer Science School to sponsor the inaugural program on their campus.
Erica also recruited college volunteers to help mentor students and learn the curriculum. Clearing logistical and technical hurdles, Erica’s next step of recruiting students went into effect. She emailed hundreds of math and science teachers, created a buzz online and even handed out flyers at her local library.
Today Erica is proud of the fruits of her labor. She has had students creating their own websites, writing code, coming back to take advance courses, and even to teach. Many of her new students come from referrals of former students.
To make the program more accessible to students, Erica moved her classroom to the Santa Ana Public Library and to reach even more girls, she has translated her online curriculum into several languages, and appointed over twenty global ambassadors across the United States and in Mexico, Liberia, India, and Saudi Arabia to host workshops in their own communities.
Erica says, “I see racial and gender underrepresentation in STEM as a deep-rooted and pervasive problem that can be addressed first at the local level, within our communities. With my parents‘ encouragement, I have been inspired to take action and address these challenges, and I am determined to make it my life’s work to turn the tide on inequality.”