Gilroy Grads Set Records for Scholarships

Christopher High graduation 2017

Gilroy’s Class of 2017 tallied record numbers in diplomas and scholarship dollars, including nearly a quarter of a million dollars from a mystery donor known only as “Uvas Creek.”
In all, seniors earned 904 diplomas and received well in excess of
$1,599,230 in scholarships, according to school tallies.
Both figures are records for the Gilroy Unified School District.
So many financial scholarships were awarded that the district could not readily produce a complete list or total amounts because there are many it does not even know about, officials said.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Superintendent of Schools, Debbie Flores.
“This year was the most (scholarships) we have seen at both comprehensive high schools and even GECA (Gilroy Early College Academy) students received quite a few,” she said.
“The generosity in Gilroy is approaching (that of) much bigger and much wealthier districts,” he said.
The totals tallied by the high schools do not include many scholarships awarded directly to seniors by colleges, according to Flores, but unknown to the district.
As for the mystery scholarship donor, or donors, who goes by the name “Uvas Creek” Flores said, “We don’t know who the donor is, but we are incredibly grateful on behalf of our students.”
Those scholarships, like many others, were processed through fund account with the Gilroy Foundation.
In all, 12 seniors received $20,000 each from the anonymous benefactor, for a total of $240,000, according to the GUSD tally.
That is the largest amount given by a single donor, according to compilations made by each school.
At Christopher High School, recipients were Mia Navarro, Esteban
Rubio, Jacob Yoder-Schrock, Karina Gonzalez and Lindsey Buessing.
At Gilroy High School, $20,000 each went to Jessica Gonzalez, Sarah Weiby, David Vargas, Adina Valencia and Rubin Perez.
GECA’s Emmanuel-Aurelio De La Torre and Rayleen Miranda also received Uvas Creek scholarships, according to the school.
The biggest college packages—four-year scholarships—went to seniors headed off to the nation’s military academies.
The US Coast Guard awarded CHS’s Ali Souza a full scholarship worth $435,000. Souza also received a $10,000 Don Christopher Scholarship.
GECA’s Shirley Hao won a US Air Force Academy four-year scholarship worth $400,000, according to the district.
The next largest amount from a single donor was $200,000 for the four Julio Mata Memorial Scholarships at $50,000 each. They went to CHS’s Alejandro Diaz, GECA’s Virginia Diaz Lazaro and GHS’s David Vargas and Mya Esquivel.
Linda Burnett Scholarships of $12,000 each went to CHS’s Fatima Caradonna Soza and Sofia Gaeta and to GHS’s Rubin Perez.
Graduating seniors from Gilroy’s continuation high school, Mt. Madonna, also were recognized for excellence as they finished their high school years.
Five were awarded Sean Merriman Scholarships of $1,000 each. They were Cindy Duran, Luisa Maquiz, Giovanni Quezada, Butterfly Pina and Maya Perez.
Mt. Madonna’s Yesenia Garcia received an $2,500 AdvancePath Scholarship, Tea Tarbell received the $1,000 Hoover Scholarship and $500 Cal-SOAP scholarships went to Jose Magdaleno and Desiree Martinez.
In addition to the large Mata and anonymous donations, an additional major donation of $111,500 came from Don and Karen Christopher and family members, companies and employees.
At least 25 students received amounts ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 in scholarships bearing the Christopher name.
Christopher High School, the family’s namesake, graduated 438 seniors on June 9, while Gilroy High School graduated 299 on June 8, according to GUSD. GECA had 50 and Mt. Madonna handed out 117 diplomas.
Flores said the numbers at the former two were not unexpected in terms of planning and that class sizes of 400 “will be the norm” in coming years at both.
Indeed, 941 middle schoolers who just graduated are headed to Gilroy’s high schools later this year, setting the stage for numbers in 2021 even higher than those of 2017—and that’s without including anticipated population growth.
That growth, however, will swell numbers mostly at GHS, Flores said. Hundreds new homes under construction and approved to be built in the near future are and will be in the GHS attendance area.
Indeed, two of the soon to be under-construction projects to accommodate student population growth are just breaking ground at GHS on 10th Street.
One is a new, two-story math building. The other is the complete repaving of the school’s sprawling main parking lot, which is being done in conjunction with installation of GUSD’s first-ever solar power generation facility.
The entire lot will be covered with raised solar panels, providing shade, shelter, safety and the ability to generate power and reduce the district’s electric bill for years to come.
The acoustics in the GHS cafeteria, the largest meeting hall in the district and often used for concerts, are being upgraded.
All of the projects are being funded with Measure E bond money, approved by voters last year to repair and remodel old schools and build a new one.
GUSD’s high school grads were not the only aspects of the past school year Flores said deserving of praise. A program and two other schools were recipients of prestigious awards, she said.
• The GHS Biomedical Science Academy received the county school board association’s Glenn W. Hoffman Exemplary Award.
• The California Association for Bilingual Education Award went to Rod Kelley Elementary School.
• Ascencion Solorsano Middle School received the 2017 California Gold Ribbon School and Title I Academic Achieving School awards.
Among other highlights of the coming school year, Flores pointed to upgrades in the math programs across all grades.
“It’s very significant,” the superintendent said. “We haven’t adopted a new math curriculum in eight years.”
The district has used out-dated curriculums in math, English and science for years due to state funding problems. Upgrades to the other two subjects are scheduled in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, respectively, she said.
Perhaps the biggest project moving forward will be the construction of a new elementary school off Santa Teresa Boulevard near Solorsano Middle School, also to accommodate new residential growth in the city’s southern and western quadrants.
A preliminary design has been drawn up and the committee overseeing the project is already hard at work, Flores said.
Back to the work of the Class of 2017—here are a few facts and figures from the high schools:
• At Mt. Madonna, 35 of the 117 graduates will go on to college, a record for the school.
• Mt. Madonna’s student graduation speaker honors went to Yesenia Garcia and Louisa Maquiz Garcia.
• At GHS, 30 percent of grads will go to four-year colleges, 50 percent to community colleges, 2 percent to vocational and trade schools and 3 percent to the military. (exact numbers were not available for CHS).
• At GECA, 88 percent of grads will attend four-year colleges and 12 percent community colleges, while 68 percent earned their 2-year associate degrees while attending GECA.

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