FAIRFIELD — Rodriguez High School senior Claudia Diaz came to Armijo High School on Thursday night hoping to get an assist for college.
Diaz wants to be a teacher and will attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo next year. She is seeking Assist-A-Grad scholarships to help with the finances.
Scholarships are valuable to her.
“They’re really important, because I have two siblings in college already,” she said. “It’s hard to pay for all three of us at the same time.”
Assist-A-Grad is a local program that has helped local students pay for college for 45 years. Eight-one individuals, businesses and community groups sponsor and award at least one scholarships, each after interviewing applicants.
High school seniors from Armijo, Fairfield, Rodriguez and Vanden high schools this year submitted 239 applications for 173 scholarships worth a total of almost $125,000. Thursday marked the last of four evenings of interviews.
Diaz interviewed for a scholarship offered by Jim and Mayrene Bates of $500 for those interested in education careers. Jim Bates taught for 20 years at Grange Middle School and Mayrene Bates was principal at Crystal Middle School and K.I. Jones Elementary School, as well as assistant principal at Fairfield High School. She now sits on the board of the Solano County Office of Education.
“We do the scholarship because both of us came from very, very poor backgrounds and we know that even the smallest amount of money can make a big difference,” Mayrene Bates said.
In addition, scholarships can provide inspiration, she said.
But Diaz was the only applicant for the Bates’ scholarship this year. Fortunately, Mayrene Bates said, Diaz is outstanding. Usually three to four students apply.
The Bateses didn’t know why there was a drop-off. Mayrene Bates speculated that maybe the high cost of college has discouraged some families.
Because students often apply for multiple Assist-A-Grad scholarships, the scholarship sponsors took part in 611 interviews over the four evenings at Armijo High School.
Rita Santos is president of the Assist-A-Grad Scholarship Foundation.
“Every year, this is a highlight for me and for all of us,” she said Thursday as she helped organize the evening.
She talked about students needing to follow their dreams and believe in themselves. But she also sees the issues that confront them.
“They’re eager to go to college,” Santos said. “There’s always a question of, ‘How am I going to get the money, where am I going to go, how am I going to do this?’ ”
Assist-A-Grad tries to be part of the answer. The scholarships are to be presented during a May 18 ceremony at the Fairfield Community Center.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.