The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara celebrated the 2,139 Santa Barbara County students who received scholarships totaling more than $7.7 million at its annual awards dinner last week.
It was held in person for the first time in two years at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
The dinner followed the South County Awards Ceremony which took place at the Courthouse Sunken Garden.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the Scholarship Foundation is the nation’s largest community-based provider of college scholarships, cumulatively awarding more than $140 million to 60,000 county students since its founding in 1962.
Saray Adan-Salvador is one such student.
A senior at Santa Barbara High School, Adan-Salvador is the first in her family to attend college. Her parents, who met at Santa Barbara High, had her during their ninth grade, eventually causing them to drop out of school because juggling a newborn and class proved too difficult. They both worked several low-paying, labor-intensive jobs to support their growing families, as they later welcomed two more children.
When Adan-Salvador was in seventh grade, his father was expelled for domestic violence, and that’s when his mother turned to drugs. As his addiction grew, Adan-Salvador’s mother lost her job, her home and her children.
From left, Jamie Steidl, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation Board Member Rachael Steidl, Judy Milam, Patty Palmer and Neil Cutcliffe were among the supporters at Wednesday’s awards dinner . (Photo by Isaac Hernandez)
At 15, Adan-Salvador became the guardian of her two younger siblings. As they shuttled between family members, Adan-Salvador found a job that provided clothes and food and made sure his brother and sister always had Christmas and birthday presents.
While facing extraordinary challenges, Adan-Salvador flourished academically.
“My story is one of resilience, courage and gratitude,” Adan-Salvador told the crowd of nearly 200 supporters. “Despite witnessing domestic violence and substance abuse, my story is hopeful.”
In the future, Adan-Salvador hopes to help other immigrant families. At Chico State, she plans to study language pathology to learn how to help children like her brother who has difficulty speaking.
“None of this would be possible without the Scholarship Foundation,” said Adan-Salvador. “There’s no way I could go to college without their help.”
Andrew Tabbert also shared his personal story as well as his gratitude to the Scholarship Foundation and the Rotary Club. He plans to study environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, his dream school, but his path to college has been one of adversity.
Tabbert shared the challenges he endured as a child, having seen two parents addicted to methamphetamine. Both parents worked in grocery stores, living paycheck to paycheck to care for Tabbert and his two brothers. His father spent time in prison for dealing drugs when Tabbert was 9, and that’s when Tabbert said he focused on “the one thing I was good at: the school”. He thrived academically and would graduate from Dos Pueblos High School with honors.
While Tabbert said he was thrilled to be accepted to Berkeley, he later learned he had not received any financial aid. Knowing his parents couldn’t afford the tuition, Tabbert did what he always does in the face of adversity. He swung into action, working extra shifts and seeking scholarship opportunities.
“I am forever grateful to the Scholarship Foundation,” he said. “These funds are helping me break the pattern in our family and follow my own path.”
“Our work at the foundation tends to have an abstract quality for much of the year, although meeting the students and hearing their stories brings it all home,” said board chair Matt Rowe. . “Each is a poignant reminder that we are engaged in extraordinary work. After all, what could be more fundamental to fostering the health and development of our children than improving access to education?
Rowe paid tribute to her predecessor, former Board Chair Christie Glanville, and thanked President and CEO Barbara Robertson for her steadfast leadership, keeping the organization active and making grants during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Jim Knight spoke on behalf of past recipients Kira and Marissa Levy, who were unable to attend the conference but expressed their gratitude in writing. Thanks to flexible scholarship funds, the money the girls received helped pay for textbooks, school supplies and gas, and even allowed them to study in Madrid.
True to its name, the Scholarship Foundation provides local students with scholarships to attend college and professional schools at undergraduate and graduate level. The organization also provides financial aid counseling services to tens of thousands of people through workshops and office appointments.
Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation.
– Ann Pieramici is a contributing writer for Noozhawk. She can be reached at [email protected].