Palo Alto scholarship program honors grads

Pursuit of Excellence, launched in 1985, to award $475,000 to 165 college students

Thirty new high school graduates will be honored June 17 at a celebration of Pursuit of Excellence, a Palo Alto-based scholarship program.

The all-volunteer program, launched in 1985 by local residents Jerry and Dick Smallwood, has raised more than $2 million in support of some 350 low-income college students over the years.

This year the group expects to award about $475,000 to 165 new and continuing college students, according to the Smallwoods' daughter, Carol Mullin of Palo Alto.

Donors and families also will celebrate the college graduations of 18 Pursuit of Excellence students, who have been supported over four years in amounts ranging from $8,000 to $30,000 each.

In addition to the funds, Pursuit of Excellence provides students with volunteer mentors through the college years.

The program -- now carried on locally by Mullin and, on a smaller scale, in the Washington, D.C., area by her brother Scott Smallwood -- targets high school seniors. The funds, which range from $500 to $5,000, can be a tipping point in their ability to attend a four-year college.

Preference is given to students who have worked during their high school years. Renewal amounts are based on a student's need and performance.

Jerry Smallwood, a former teacher who also worked 12 years as a classroom aide at Walter Hays School, said her husband's full scholarship to MIT, from which he graduated in 1957, had made a big difference and the couple wants to pay it forward.

In the first year, 1985, they awarded a single, $2,000 scholarship to a Sequoia High School graduate who was heading to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

This year's new recipients

From Gunn High School: Sadaf Rizvi, going to Foothill or DeAnza College;

From Palo Alto High School: Alan Lamarque going to the University of Redlands;

From East Palo Alto Academy: Jennifer Guitierrez going to California State University at Chico, Emmonie Gulley, also going to CSU Chico, Diana Carranza going to San Jose State University and David Lozano Camacho, also going to San Jose State;

From East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy: Eunice Romero going to University of California at Berkeley, Miriam Chavez Gama going to UC Davis and Bianca Rodriguez, also going to UC Berkeley;

From Eastside College Prep: Alexis Aceves going to UCLA;

From Los Alto High School: Glenda Vargas going to Chapman University and Asha Bhote going to UCLA;

From Mountain View High School: Luzdeluna Marrero going to San Jose State and Jaime Rodas, also going to San Jose State;

From Carlmont High School: Nicolas Monteiro going to University of California at San Diego;

From Menlo-Atherton High School: Ilaisaane Fakalata going to St. Mary's College, Antonella Salerno going to San Jose State, Bernardo Quevedo going to University of the Pacific, Danbi Byun going to Foothill or DeAnza, Niesha Ford going to College of St. Benedict and Luz Elicea-Reyes going to San Francisco State;

From Sequoia High School: Leticia Soto going to UC Santa Cruz, Ariel Vega going to California State University at Long Beach, Karla Velarde going to Reed College, Rossmeri Ramirez going to California State University at Sacramento and Oscar Escobedo going to California State University at Los Angeles;

From Woodside High School: Manuel Espinoza going to San Diego State, Kenya Yniguez going to Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, Michelle Erazo going to San Diego State and Diana Hernandez Guerrero going to San Francisco State.

Chris Kenrick

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