Del Mar-based Don Diego Foundation launches unprecedented scholarship program

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is launching an unprecedented scholarship program in 2015: $41,500 in college scholarships awarded to 13 outstanding high school seniors 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. The deadline to apply is March 16, 2015. Finalist interviews will take place in April. Recipients will be announced in May and honored at the exclusive Don Diego Gala to be held during the 2015 San Diego County Fair.

Eligibility requirements and applications are at For questions, contact Executive Director Chana Mannen at

Scholarships of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000 will be awarded in each of four categories: 4-H, FFA, Employee and Exhibitor/Participant. The $5,000 recipient deemed most outstanding will also receive the coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship, for a total $10,000 award.

The top 2014 scholar, Carolyn Kravitz, is putting her $10,000 scholarship to excellent use at Stanford University, where this dedicated horsewoman is pursuing a challenging major in Molecular Biology/Genetics. Saying her ultimate career goal is “to earn a PhD and become a researcher at the corner of animal genetics and disease,” Carolyn reports, “Don Diego is helping make Stanford a reality for me, and I know the organization will do the same for the 2015 winners.”

Starting in 2015, a $2,500 Vocational Education (Voc Ed) scholarship will be awarded to a student who intends to pursue a vocational education curriculum at a community college or accredited trade school, with the goal of obtaining an AA/AS degree or certificate. Voc Ed applicants can meet any of the four eligibility categories.

Don Diego Board Chair Paul Ecke III states, “Our Foundation Board has embarked on a strategic course of expansion to enhance our value to families and our region. For years, we awarded four $5,000 scholarships for a total of $20,000 annually. Now, we have more than doubled the amount of funding and more than tripled the number of recipients. The introduction of the Voc Ed scholarship marks another significant step in our evolution. While supporting students who matriculate at prestigious universities across the country, from UC Berkeley to MIT, we also recognize that some students choose to pursue skilled trades that are key to a healthy, diverse economy.”

He said he believes, “Our strategic expansion is as ambitious as the outstanding students whose educational and career goals we support.”

To raise funds in support of the increased allotment of scholarships, Don Diego has broadened its donation vehicles. Ecke says, “We invite people to make an investment that will pay dividends for students and our entire community. Together, we are building a better San Diego.”

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. The Foundation has awarded more than $640,000 in college scholarships and grants for agricultural education since its inception in 1986. Information on programs and donation opportunities is at and

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