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Friends of the Solana Beach Library awards 2022 scholarships

The Directors of the Friends of the Solana Beach Library recently announced the recipients of the 2022 Friends Scholarship awards for education beyond the high school level. Four anonymous donations added to the funds budgeted for scholarships this year, making it possible for the Friends to award seven $1,000 scholarships.

The award winners comprise a diverse group of Solana Beach residents in terms of schools attended, educational and career aspirations, and life experience, as detailed in their application essays. They have impressive records of academic achievement and service to their Solana Beach community and beyond, as well as outstanding recommendations from their teachers, counselors and others.

Here in alphabetical order by first name are the 2022 Friends Scholarship recipients:

Eric Van Valkenberg
Eric Van Valkenberg
(Amy McQuade)

Eric Van Valkenberg (Torrey Pines High School) will attend the University of Oklahoma, where he will study physical therapy in preparation for a career as a physical therapist or a sports trainer. A baseball player training on his own to stay in shape during the pandemic, Eric injured his back, and his injury required surgery and a long recovery. One Nine Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy in Solana Beach helped him to get back to form, physically and mentally. And it was during the rehab process that he realized what he wanted to study in college. Eric interned at One Nine last summer so he could learn about the business and one day help other people the way he had been helped. A volunteer from a young age, Eric worked with a group of friends in Solana Beach Little League to teach newly arrived refugee kids how to play baseball. “Even though language was a barrier,” he says, “we all laughed and played together for hours.” He has also volunteered with the Miracle League (an association that supports baseball for physically and mentally challenged athletes) and has helped with kids’ birthday parties at the Crisis House domestic violence program in Santee.

Franco Sims
Franco Sims
(Courtesy)

Franco Sims (Canyon Crest Academy) will attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona pursuing a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical science. He’s excited about attending one of the best schools in the country for this purpose. At the same time he will be taking his flight training to become a licensed commercial airline pilot. Over the last year he has taken a flight course leading to a private pilot’s license, which is the first step toward a commercial license. Franco has been a much appreciated administrative assistant and IT tech for Nuinto, a video communications consultancy in Solana Beach, setting up sound, phone and WiFi systems and training employees. An honored Eagle Scout with Solana Beach Troop 782, he was also a member of Teen Volunteers in Action for six years working with local charities, and has volunteered through Solana Beach Presbyterian Church and the YMCA.

Jessica Connell
Jessica Connell
(Adela Guerrero)

Jessica Connell (Canyon Crest Academy) will attend University of Colorado, Boulder studying chemical and biological engineering. Jessica’s goal is to become a medical doctor working in a career that involves direct patient care, creating a safe and inclusive space for diverse patient populations. At Canyon Crest Jessica played varsity field hockey for four years and participated in the school’s Vocal Conservatory classes. Shopping for high-risk seniors (through Teens Helping Seniors), working with children (as a volunteer at Get Outside summer camp and in the Feed the Kids program), and acting as a St. James/St. Leo Youth Café Leader helped Jessica decide on an educational and career path that will combine STEM skills with the desire to serve others.

Kelly Drummond
Kelly Drummond
(Courtesy)

Kelly Drummond (a 2006 graduate of San Dieguito Academy) earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Puget Sound. This month she has entered the masters of advanced studies program in marine biodiversity and conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. She will pursue a career in policy and communications in marine conservation. Kelly has been a studio art teacher, an environmental educator and a Montessori teacher. After a decade of working in education in different capacities, she went back to school in various community college programs to study marine science and to see where she might fit into meeting the challenges the marine environment faces today. Through the masters program at Scripps she wants to expand her skills for working at the juncture of communication and sustainable development of ocean industries. Kelly has volunteered with the Surfrider Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs. She has regularly participated in beach cleanups throughout San Diego County, and weeded the garden the Boys & Girls Clubs maintains for their summer cooking classes.

Kristal Cruz
Kristal Cruz
(Courtesy)

Kristal Cruz (Torrey Pines High School) will attend California State University, San Marcos, where she plans to major in marketing or in child and adolescent development. Marketing studies would help her with plans to open a business, operating a bakery or a nail salon. Growing up she watched internet tutorials on how to do nail designs with home supplies, and she recently opened a nail business at home, earning money doing work she enjoys. As she begins college, Kristal is also considering a different major, one that would lead to a career in teaching. Her volunteer experience tutoring for Casa de Amistad during the pandemic taught her how much she loves helping children learn. In addition to Casa de Amistad, she has volunteered at Dia de Los Muertos and in the holiday baskets program of St. Leo and St. James parish.

Morgan Day
Morgan Day
(Kira Manqueros)

Morgan Day (Santa Fe Christian Schools) will attend Colorado State University, where she has been accepted into the Honors program. She will major in construction management, with an emphasis in sustainability in building, and a minor in graphic design. Inspired by the public art in Solana Beach as she grew up, and by the art classes she took in high school (she took every one available), she plans a career “creating oases for others to enjoy.” With her mother, Morgan has volunteered with the National Charity League in locations from San Diego to Oceanside, working on beach clean-up; at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society; and at a local soup kitchen. At Santa Fe Christian she was a varsity swimmer and water polo player and captained both teams.

Wendy Mendoza
Wendy Mendoza
(Courtesy)

Wendy Mendoza (a Torrey Pines High School graduate in 2019) has now completed her junior year at University of San Diego (USD), majoring in behavioral neuroscience. After finishing her undergraduate degree next year, she will apply to the USD master’s entry program in nursing. And after graduating and working as a registered nurse in a hospital setting for a while, she plans to return to school to become a women’s health nurse practitioner. Inspired by her experience as a translator for her Spanish-speaking parents at the doctor’s office and for another family member at clinics and hospitals, she looks forward to playing a role in minimizing the language barrier between healthcare providers and Spanish-speaking patients so they can get the care they need. Wendy grew up attending the Boys & Girls Clubs and Casa de Amistad, and then volunteering at Casa and the Solana Beach Library. She now volunteers at Palomar Health hospital in Escondido, where she participates in the Pathmaker Internship program, assisting hospital staff with patient care.

The scholars recently have met individually at the library with Scholarship Committee members to receive their awards and the Friends’ well wishes as they take the next step in their educational journey. “Learning about these impressive students, their goals, and their desire to serve others,” says Friends of the Library President Susan McEachern, “really makes me optimistic about the future.”


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