Virtual Gathering Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Awards for Stan State Students
October 17, 2021

Working parents, immigrants and first-generation college students are among the members of the 30th class of Mary Stuart Rogers Scholars honored Friday, Oct. 15, during a virtual ceremony. 

Seventeen students in all were recognized with 13 receiving the Rogers Scholars ring presented to first-year recipients. 

Eliseo Garcia and Adrian Vega were second-year recipients, and Abdulla Mammadsoy — who was forced to flee his native Azerbaijan with his human rights activist parents and landed at Stanislaus State — was honored as a Rogers Scholar for the third time. 

Vianette Mendoza Orozco, who is pursuing dual teaching credentials in special education and bilingual education, is the credential recipient. Her goal is to teach non-English speakers with special needs. 

All of this year’s recipients are undergraduate juniors or seniors or credential students and have maintained at least a 3.0 grade-point average. More importantly, they have demonstrated, by their actions or educational pursuits, a dedication to helping others. 

Those were the ideals of Mary Stuart Rogers, heir to the Carnation Foods Company, who established her foundation in 1985 and awarded the first scholarships to Stan State students in 1991. 

“As a mother of four, my mother pounded home the importance of education,” her son John Rogers, president of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, once explained. “When she was financially able, the first thing she did was set up a scholarship program to help students who worked hard to help themselves. She also understood the importance of providing scholarships to minority students.” 

Rogers Scholars have been named at several other universities, including John Rogers’ alma mater Willamette University in Oregon, his late brother’s alma mater Lewis & Clark College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California State University, San Bernardino’s Palm Desert Campus and University of the Pacific. 

In 30 years, more than 600 Stan State students have been honored with scholarships that range from $1,000 to $3,000. In total, the Rogers Scholars program has awarded more than $3.2 million to students at Stan State. 

“On behalf of the University, I want to thank the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, which has chosen to invest in our region’s future through their substantial support of our promising scholars,” said Stan State President Ellen Junn. “To our 2021 Rogers Scholars: I applaud your drive for excellence and commitment to service. You are wonderful trailblazers and strong role models for scholars who will follow in your footsteps.” 

Mammadsoy, honored for a third year, is studying math and computer science with dreams of working on the storing, structuring and processing of information technologies to assist specialists in decision making. 

“I want to use my rich knowledge to improve science and technologies that change the world and make it a better place for other people,” Mammadsoy said. 

Making the world a little better and brighter is a goal of second-year recipient Garcia, too. 

“My greatest desire is simply to be able to help those in need, serve them as well as possible, and, hopefully, inspire them to be selfless,” said Garcia, who is graduating this fall with a degree in biological sciences and preparing for medical school. “Truly, this scholarship is contributing to the commencement of my dream to pursue a career in medicine and to help transform healthcare. I aspire to become a physician who is a welcomed addition to the medical field by not only his peers, but more importantly, by the community he serves.” 

Marilu Velasco Hinojoza, a first-generation student who will graduate in spring 2022 with a Spanish degree and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification, is looking ahead to becoming a community college instructor.  

“I will strive to use my knowledge and skills as a language teacher, and my life experience, to bridge the communication gaps and the cultural divide that exists in our society, and to assist with opening the door to opportunity for young people who are pursuing their goals and dreams, as I did,” she said.  

Undergraduate First-Year Recipients 

  • Jon Abel, a double major in history and economics, is looking ahead to graduate school or law school to become an attorney for the National Federation for the Blind. A rare genetic disorder rendered Abel legally blind, and while it provides many challenges, “I am inspired to pursue a career in aiding this community,” he said. 

  • Mariela Arteaga-Tafolla, a resident of Modesto, Arteaga-Tafolla maintains a 3.04 grade-point average and is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in spring 2022. Her community service includes working local elections, offering salon services to the homeless at Love Modesto, and volunteering to serve meals in Delhi. 

  • Jared Brawley, a business major who aspires to become a certified public accountant after his expected spring 2022 graduation, has a 3.9 grade-point average, is a member of honor societies for first-generation and financial information students and has been on the Dean’s List since arriving at Stan State in 2018.  

  • Alejandra de Avellar, a psychology major from Tracy who serves the elderly and differently-abled as a certified nursing assistant and dreams of becoming a trauma response advocate at a women’s shelter. She is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in spring 2024 and is a member of the Psi Chi Honor Society and Tri-Alpha Honor Society. 

  • Carly Efseaff is a communications studies major and a pole vaulter who also is a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run. Her future goal is to work as a news or sports journalist or in mass media communications.  

  • Robert Garcia dreamed of playing professional baseball, but now he wants to coach at the collegiate level, to “have the same impact those coaches had on me with players of my own.” The psychology major, who has made the Dean’s List and has a goal of earning his bachelor’s degree in spring 2023, is looking ahead to graduate school and working toward a master’s degree in psychology to better position him to coach at the college or professional level. 

  • Tonya Hensley spends her time around children when she’s not studying or working toward her goal of becoming a nurse to help bring babies into the world as a labor/delivery nurse. The widow has four children, but she also provides free childcare for other single moms and is a volunteer tutor for children in her Mountain House community. Hensely manages to do all of this while maintaining top scholastic honors at Stanislaus State, where she’s pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing that began when she was a student at San Joaquin Delta College and Modesto Junior College. 

  • Marilu Velasco Hinojoza is close to completing her bachelor’s degree and earning a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Certification from Stanislaus State with a 3.94 GPA. Hinojoza, who expects to graduate in spring 2022, has persevered toward her dream of becoming a community college instructor: taking courses at Merced Adult School, earning a General Education Development certificate, working as a licensed cosmetologist, learning English and becoming a United States citizen. “This scholarship will enable me to realize my goals,” she said. 

  • Georgina Orozco will graduate in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychology. The McNair Scholar then plans to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. Orozco maintains a 3.8 grade-point average and has received the Honors Society of Phi Kappa Phi Excellence Award. A member of the Tri-Alpha Honors Society and a Stan State honors student, she has been recognized on the Dean’s List four times. She hopes to someday provide physical therapy services to low-income patients because she understands the challenges they face. 

  • Angel Reyes plans to pursue a graduate degree in genomics or proteomics somewhere in California, then go to work as a researcher in a lab setting. Reyes maintains a 3.7 grade point average and has been recognized on the Dean’s List four times. He also earned honors from the California Scholarship Federation and the State of California while attending high school. His volunteer work includes working for several years with the Knights of Columbus on fundraisers for scholarships and a private teaching program for adolescents with disabilities. 

  • Paulina Rodriguez, who aspires to be a certified public accountant, is on track to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Rodriguez maintains an overall 3.72 grade point average and she has been recognized on the Dean’s List at Stan State and received honors while attending Merced College and her high school. Rodriguez said education is very important to her because, as a first-generation college student, she understands the significance of the opportunities she’s been given. 

  • Isabel Ruiz Villafan, who is her grandmother’s caretaker, hopes to one day care for a broader segment of society, specifically, those with mental health issues. The psychology major who expects to graduate in 2024, made the Dean’s List all four of her semesters at Modesto Junior College, and her first semester at Stanislaus State. Her dedication to her education keeps her focused on her future goal of becoming a clinical psychologist to help others. 

  • Mohammad Zahir, a political science major, spent more than 10 years serving as an interpreter for the United States Army and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, in his native Afghanistan. The married father of three brought his family to the U.S. in 2015 and is pursuing a new life here. He sees a degree from Stan State as a pathway to a bright future. He expects to graduate in 2024 and is excited to pursue more work in public service. 

Undergraduate Second-Year Recipients 

  • Eliseo Garcia is preparing to graduate this fall with a degree in biological sciences and minor in chemistry. The second-year Rogers Scholar with a 4.0 grade point average envisions a career as a physician-scientist, preferably in this medically underserved region, focused on “improving the patient-physician relationship, a major factor that influences a patient’s choice to seek preventative care and treatment before a particular condition worsens and affects their quality of life.” 

  • Adrian Vega is a first-generation college student and second-year Rogers Scholar. He anticipates graduating in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar studies and performance. He wants to pursue a master’s degree in classical guitar studies and to earn a degree in finance. By being the first, and youngest in the family to reach this level of education, “I already have made them proud, but I believe they deserve to see my hard work and efforts continue into graduate education and beyond.” 

Undergraduate Third-Year Recipient 

  • Abdulla Mammadsoy, a third-year Rogers Scholar, hopes to pursue a Ph.D. and work to improve the storing, structuring and processing of information technologies to assist specialists in decision making. He wants to use his knowledge “to improve science and technologies that change the world and make it a better place for other people.” 

Credential Recipient 

  • Vianette Mendoza Orozco graduated from Stanislaus State with magna cum laude honors and two bachelor’s degrees, one in liberal studies and one in Spanish. Now she is pursuing special education teaching credentials and a bilingual certification that would enable her to teach children who have special needs and are English language learners. In addition to being a full-time student, Mendoza Orozco worked for three years as a Peer Academic Leader (PAL) and a Residential Assistant (RA) for Housing and Residential Life.