MAEGA celebrates 50 years of awarding scholarships to local Latino students


The Mexican American Educational Guidance Association (MAEGA), a nonprofit that awards scholarships to local Mexican American and other Latino students in the San Dieguito Union High School District who move on to college, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 5 at the Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa.

“You can see the stars on the ceiling, stars on the tables,” said Anna Vallez, president of MAEGA and a scholarship recipient in 1974. “We are recognizing all our stars tonight.”

Jodi Kodesh, master of ceremonies, said MAEGA “is the epitome of a grassroots organization that started and grew purely from donors who genuinely cared about their community.”

The nonprofit’s founder, Don Lapham, met a high school student who excelled in track, but couldn’t go to college because he needed to work to support his family.

“At the time, there were very few scholarships, especially for Latinos,” said Kodesh, a meteorologist and owner of Level Up Skin Care. “So Don called a few of his good friends, and Don had some amazing friends.”

From the first $10,000 that an early supporter contributed, MAEGA has collected about $3 million for scholarships over its 50 years.

The event included a video presentation where past MAEGA recipients shared stories of how the nonprofit helped shape their lives. Julie Esparza Brown, a professor in the Department of Special Education at Portland State University, said in the video that her first Latino teacher provided a “much-needed role model of a teacher who looked and sounded like my community” during her senior year in high school.

“MAEGA was a terrific start and model for me that I could follow so we can change the color of the teacher workforce,” Esparza Brown said in the video. “Gracias MAEGA for the belief in my future, and education is truly the equalizer.”

Jorge Arciniega, who graduated from San Dieguito High School in 1975, attended UCLA with dreams of being a professional musician.

“Not confident that I would be able to make a living as a musician, I decided to go for something a little bit less rigorous,” Arciniega said in the video. “So I applied to Harvard Law School and decided to become a lawyer, and that’s what I’ve done for the past 40 years.”

Recent MAEGA scholarship recipient Eduardo Torres, who lives in Carlsbad and attended the ceremony, said he might look to transfer to a UC school.

“I’m happy that I’m a MAEGE recipient and I’m happy to be a MAEGA alumni,” he said.

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