Aspiring teachers, artists and other professionals have been selected as the 2022 Mary Stuart Rogers Scholars.
The awards, in their 32nd year, honor upper-division students and credential candidates who have overcome challenges to achieve success and demonstrate hope for the future.
“For more than 30 years, the Rogers Scholars program has graciously provided a means for the University and community to recognize and celebrate the achievements, choices — and sacrifices — you have made to be a successful student,” said Stanislaus State President Junn. “You serve as extraordinary ambassadors for Stan State, and you embody our goal to aim for academic excellence.”
Each year, the recipients of the scholarship are honored at a special reception where they meet the Rogers family.
John Rogers, president of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, and his daughter Janet personally congratulated each of the scholars and commended them for their hard work and dedication.
“We believe in you, and we are so proud of you,” Janet Rogers said.
This year’s class of 10 recipients join more than 600 scholars who have benefited from the generosity of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, which has donated more than $3.2 million since beginning the scholarship program in 1991.
2022 First-year Recipients:
Mauricio Arzate returned to school when he realized what he wanted in life was a university education.
The transfer student from San Joaquin Delta College gave up on school 20 years ago, but he has no regrets about being back in the classroom.
“Looking for other ways to make a living and find purpose led me in a complete circle back to where I left so long ago,” Arzate said. “Taking assessments, meeting with counselors and learning about careers that fit my abilities at Delta College have given me direction.”
Arzate is now on a path to graduate with a Stanislaus State bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, which he hopes prepares him to work as a crime analyst for the sheriff’s department.
Completing his degree, he said, will help him be a better role model for his children.
He’s already doing that, though, helping his son’s Boy Scout troop members become Eagle Scouts. He also served in a variety of volunteer roles at Delta, helping tutor students and guiding them to available resources.
Kyle Barrett is living proof that a college education is possible for everyone.
“I created my own path to success for personal growth while incarcerated,” said Barrett, a computer science major from Modesto. “I took advantage of everything and everyone who was willing to give me an opportunity to grow and learn. Then I applied it all to develop into the person I wanted to be and continue to strive to uphold.”
He has earned two associate degrees, and now is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Stan State.
Barrett’s re-entry into society is supported by Legacy Alliance Outreach, and he volunteers for the organization, serving food to the homeless and providing day labor requested by community members.
“I enjoy being of service to all of the community,” Barrett said.
Diana Borges grew up speaking Portuguese in the home of her parents, both immigrants from the Azores Islands.
Her ability to learn English and pursue a college degree are a tribute to her parents, whom she said, “gave me a foundation of family values based on honesty, humility and a strong work ethic. I keep those values close to my heart anywhere I go to, and every time I start a new project in life.”
After success at Modesto Junior College, where she earned an associate degree in business administration and a Certificate of Achievement in Geological Science, the Hilmar resident is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
The first-generation college student is traveling a different path from that of her parents, but she hasn’t forgotten her roots. She joined the Portuguese Education Foundation of Central California (PEFCC) to promote Portuguese culture and bring more opportunities to students in the community.
“I hope I can help make a difference in these students’ lives as many people have made in mine,” Borges said.
Zehl Day dreams of becoming a graphic designer.
The Turlock resident has a more immediate goal, as they are working toward a Stanislaus State bachelor’s degree in studio art.
What they’ve discovered, though, is that studio art is an expensive pursuit. In addition to textbooks, costs for art tools and materials mount as the junior moves through the program.
Their love of art keeps him going, though.
“My life passions and career goals are surrounded by art,” Day said.
Thay always have been an excellent student, both in high school, where they earned a weighted grade point average of 3.8, and at Stan State, where the junior has a perfect 4.0.
Day balances their dedication to art and school with community work.
Those efforts, they said, “have allowed me to both give back to those who have helped me and grow as a person socially, emotionally and spiritually.”
Olivia Gil’s first experience as a teacher was a disaster.
Volunteering to teach young children boxing at a local gym, she showed up with no plan, no rules and no expectations.
Chaos reigned, but Gil turned to the internet for teaching tips and returned to the gym with a great resolve to succeed.
“I was determined to improve the learning experience for my students and to create expectations for them,” Gil said. “After setting some rules and a schedule, the class began to run much better. In the end, I learned that if I had never taken the first step to improve myself, my students would not have tried to improve themselves either."
Allowing children to see their potential is something Gil, a liberal studies major, hopes to do as an elementary school teacher.
A one-time math major who thought of becoming a high-school teacher like her mom, Gil instead realized she enjoyed working with younger children. She remembers the impact her fifth-grade teacher had on her by making learning fun.
Being able to make school fun for children, engage them early on, is her goal.
A liberal studies major, Leslie Hernandez is a first-generation college student fulfilling the educational dreams of her parents and her grandfather, who passed away during the COVID pandemic.
“Sometimes it feels quite selfish being the one graduating instead of them because it was their dream to go to school and be able to learn,” she wrote on her scholarship application. “When I stress out over the amount of work I have, I remind myself about what I’m working toward.”
Maintaining a nearly 4.0 GPA, she is on track to graduate in spring 2025 and plans to become an elementary school teacher. In addition to making her parents proud, she is motivated by the fact that, as the first college student in her family, she has become a role model for her cousins.
“I want to be a good example for my family and prove to them that through hard work, success is possible,” she wrote.
While being a student during the pandemic has been difficult, it taught Hernandez the value of hard work and persistence.
“I pride myself on the amount of effort I put into all my work,” she said.
Jackelyne Hinojosa is majoring in both child development and Spanish. She looks forward to giving back to the community someday as a preschool teacher.
“Working with children and their families is important because children need parents, teachers and the community to help them grow,” she wrote in her application essay.
Hinojosa is a first-generation college student maintaining a GPA of nearly 3.8 and expecting to graduate in spring 2024. She has been on the dean’s list multiple times, and she has made it a personal goal to stay on the list throughout her years as a Warrior.
She said she is passionate about being a preschool teacher and excited about being a Rogers Scholar. The award gives her the opportunity to meet new people while helping her meet her career and professional goals.
“It has given me the honor to say that I am a proud Rogers Scholar, and that my hard work was recognized,” she said.
An English major with a minor in journalism, Natalie Ramos is passionate about writing and dreams of being a journalist.
“Because I love writing, activism and hearing other people’s stories, I wholeheartedly believe that a career in the field of journalism is the perfect choice for me,” she wrote in her application. “I want to use my voice to make a change and give a voice to those who are unheard.”
Ramos maintains a GPA of 3.7 and plans to graduate in spring 2025. In addition to attending Stan State, she works part time in her family’s gift shop in downtown Angels Camp. She sells her handmade goods there and online to raise money for college expenses.
“I am thankful that my creative outlet of making art, jewelry and crafts has contributed to my college funds,” she wrote. “Making other people happy with my creations has also been a major blessing.”
She looks forward to using her skills as a journalist to advocate for others. She says being a Rogers Scholar is a reminder that her writing matters, and she can succeed through hard work.
Before coming to Stanislaus State, Jay Saelee worked at a McDonald's for 13 years, seven as a manager. During those years, he enjoyed seeing his employees learn, grow and excel. He often encouraged his employees to apply for the company’s scholarships, but few of them did. Then he began reaching out to other restaurants in the company to promote the scholarship program to those employees.
“Shortly after that, I realized that I wanted to have a more significant impact on the lives of others,” he wrote in his application. “I realized that the best way for me to have a meaningful impact was through education.”
Saelee returned to college 10 years after he dropped out and began working toward a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, with his sights set on a teaching credential. A transfer student from Merced College, he maintains a GPA of nearly 4.0, is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in spring 2023.
To reach his goals faster, he enrolled in the Integrated Teaching Credential Option Program at Stan State. He is also working at Pioneer Elementary School in Merced.
2022 Second-year Recipient:
Jon Abel is in his second year as a Rogers Scholar. He describes the experience, including meeting the Rogers family and his fellow scholars, as “truly humbling and inspiring.”
An economics major, he expects to graduate at the end of this semester and continue his education in law school.
“I plan to pursue my goal of becoming an attorney for the National Federation for the Blind or work with the Department of Rehabilitation,” he wrote in his application. “I want to aid those who are disabled in finding careers they can thrive in.”
He is also interested in studying the issue of homelessness and working for the betterment of the local community.
He maintains a GPA of 3.3 while juggling his coursework and raising his young son. The scholarship has been a big help to him, as well as an important honor.
“To receive this honor again is a humbling and inspiring opportunity,” he said.