Don Diego awards $55,000 in college scholarships to 18 students

Don Diego Scholarship Foundation recently announced that it has awarded $55,000 in college scholarships to 18 high-achieving students of great promise, according to a news release.

Scholarships in an array of categories were offered to students who reside in San Diego County and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Don Diego Chair Juanita Hayes states, “The rising cost of higher education, combined with economic uncertainties resulting from the pandemic, makes affording college a daunting challenge for many families. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to ease the financial burden and assuage anxiety so our ambitious and accomplished scholarship recipients can soar into bright futures pursuing their goals.”

The Scholars will be feted at Don Diego’s June 24 gala and Sam Hunt concert at the San Diego County Fair. Tickets are available at www.dondiegoscholarship.org.

Top four recipients

Ethan Rockwell of Valley Center captured a total of $11,000; winning a $5,000 Zable Foundation 4-H Scholarship, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship, and the coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship awarded annually to the most outstanding applicant. He will matriculate at South Dakota State University.

Ethan reports, “I will major in natural resource law enforcement and minor in wildlife & fisheries science so I can my dream career of being a conservation officer/fish and game warden; helping both the environment and people.” This earnest environmentalist says, “I want to make a difference in this world, helping to protect wildlife and preserve their habitats.”

Ethan’s passion began at a young age, where he garnered “an appreciation for plants and animals. I grew up playing and working on our small family farm, participating in 4-H and FFA, and enjoying the outdoors.” A recommender praises him, saying “Ethan is quite well known and respected in the local agriculture community for his knowledge, showmanship and character.” In addition to being a leader and excellent student, he has been active in school sports and volunteered to help his community.

Abigail Cotton

Abigail Cotton is not merely a straight-A student, she graduates as valedictorian of her Valley Center High class. She attained an amazing 4.8 GPA tackling a challenging AP honors curriculum while working, volunteering, excelling in cross-country varsity, and becoming an award-winning legend at the fair. This Valley Center Greenhand Chapter president won Don Diego’s $5,000 Drown & Morrison FFA Scholarship plus a $3,000 Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship. She will attend Blinn College, majoring in animal science on her way to becoming a livestock veterinarian.

This bold leader who says, “I have refused to let anyone define what I could achieve,” intends to contribute to research in the cattle genetics field. She says, “I am incredibly passionate about agriculture. It is the science of hope for a better future.”

In addition to winning numerous FFA competitions, including five-time Grand Champion Beef Showman awards, Abigail has served as an inspirational role model. She relates, “My participation in the fair not only grew my confidence in my own abilities but allowed me to instill that confidence in younger members.”

Madelyn Golden

Madelyn Golden will head from Fallbrook to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo propelled by two Don Diego awards: a $4,500 Tulloch Family Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship and a $1,500 Roxana Foxx FFA Scholarship. This future equine veterinarian confides, “I’ve always loved animals, and I know that working with livestock and horses will fit perfectly into my life.”

In fact, it already does. While excelling academically, participating in varsity gymnastics and being active in a plethora of clubs at Fallbrook High, Madi works at a veterinary hospital and devotes an enormous amount of time and effort to animal-related community service. She reports, “I have spent numerous hours helping raise and train service dogs for veterans with PTSD, and providing therapeutic horse-riding lessons to disable children and adults.”

One recommender heralds Madi as “an incredible force in our community” who daily demonstrates “enthusiasm, dedication, critical thinking and sheer kindness.”

Kyra Chen

Kyra Chen of Carlsbad jokes that her science interest and empathy for living creatures began early: “I spent the better part of my infant years wandering around the apartment complex, picking snails off the sidewalk and setting them safely in bushes.” Today, this academic standout at competitive San Dieguito Academy, where she graduates with a 4.39 GPA, will put her Don Diego $5,000 Ranglas Family Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship to great use at Duke University. “I plan to pursue a biomedical career and conduct research contributing to the development of new medicines.”

Kyra has proactively begun successfully exploring this career, interning at a local pharmaceutical company. She explains, “My task was to evaluate the effect of pharmaceutical treatments on the differentiation of human bronchial epithelial cells, a cell model for cystic fibrosis; culminating in my presentation of findings to the company’s pulmonary drug discovery group.”

Kyra is an award-wining figure skater and published artist as well as a fluent Mandarin speaker, musician and member of her school’s California Native Plant Club. A USFSA Synchronized Skating Gold Medalist, in addition to competing, Kyra coaches young ice skaters and has assiduously saved the earnings to help pay for college. Her skating instructor lauds Kyra as “someone who is making this world a better place.”

Additional recipients

Alyssa AriasJulian, $2,500 Juanita Hayes FFA Scholarship, UC Davis, International Agriculture Development

Monica FerrisLakeside, $1,000 Ecke Family FFA Scholarship, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship, Oklahoma State University, Agriculture Business/Communications

Pauldean GervargesSan Diego, $2,500 Schenk Family Employee Scholarship, San Diego State University, Finance

Will Warner, Lakeside, $2,500 Allan Royster Vocational Education Scholarship, Grossmont College, Culinary Arts

Julia BellavanceSantee, $2,500 Zable Foundation 4-H Scholarship, San Diego State University, Interior Architecture

Charles DiltzEscondido, $1,500 Zable Foundation 4-H Scholarship, Palomar College, Engineering/Agriculture

Anna SohnDel Mar, $1,000 Zable Foundation 4-H Scholarship, University of Michigan, Business Administration

Marianne SadikSan Marcos, $2,500 Karetas Family Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship, San Diego State University, Civil Engineering

Melie SimpsonEl Cajon, $1,500 Mannen Family Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship, Claremont McKenna College, Business Economics and International Studies

Darby GallagherOceanside, $1,000 Ecke Family Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship, University of Denver, Computer Science

Rachel RapueJulian, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship, Butte Glenn Community College, Animal Science

Carson RossiLakeside $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship, Cal Poly SLO, Bioresource and Agriculture Engineering

Skylar RossiLakeside, $1,000 Zable Foundation Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship, Cal Poly SLO, Bioresource and Agriculture Engineering

Keleigh WilliamsonValley Center, $2,500 Brothers Forever Scholarship, Cal Poly Humboldt, Agriculture Education

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded $1,276,844 in scholarships to 362 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at dondiegoscholarship.org and facebook.com/DonDiegoScholarship. — Don Diego Foundation news release

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