By Tracy Correa
The winners of PG&E’s Bright Minds scholarships have all been selected — and on Tuesday (May 29), four of the 10 winners were served with surprise announcements. (Five more winners were announced on Wednesday and Thursday.)
The first surprise came to Marisa Monier, 27, who just finished her associate of arts degree in childhood development at Sacramento City College. She plans to attend UC Berkeley in the fall to pursue a degree in peace and conflict studies.
Monier arrived at PG&E’s West Sacramento office Tuesday morning. She found a group that included PG&E employees and two local television stations, waited inside with balloons and cake.
“I saw a lot of people and I walked in and they started blowing party horns. I started crying. I don’t even know what they said … it all happened so fast,” said Monier. “I just never thought that anything like this would ever happen to me.”
The $30,000 scholarship is a huge relief for Monier, the first in a family of four children raised by a single mother to attend college. Nearly all of the scholarship winners are the first in their families to go to college.
It was Monier’s grandmother who encouraged her to apply for the scholarship. The family didn’t have funds available for college and Monier was hoping financial aid would cover some of her tuition at Berkeley. She said her large, extended family also was prepared to chip in but now they won’t have to.
PG&E announced the Bright Minds Scholarship program in January. It is the utility’s largest scholarship program ever. Winners receive full scholarships worth up to $30,000, awards that are renewable up to four additional years. Other winners will receive non-renewable $2,500 scholarships.
“Not only have these deserving students overcome personal adversities, they are passionate about serving the communities they live in, and it’s an honor to help them realize their dreams of continued education,” said Ezra Garrett, PG&E’s vice president of community relations.
In the San Luis Obispo County community of Templeton, Craig Martineau was surprised in his advanced placement psychology class at Templeton High School.
Martineau, 18, a standout athlete who plays both baseball and soccer and is also student body vice president, was raised by his grandparents and is planning a career in law enforcement. His grandparents were in on the surprise and carried a banner into his class where his scholarship win was announced. There were a lot of tears, including from his sports teammates. Martineau plans to major in psychology at UC Santa Barbara.
Kara Davis, 48, was surprised when she walked into the PG&E’s Santa Rosa Service Center. In addition to her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchild, her parents and family members drove up to three hours to take part in the announcement.
“She was clearly moved and buried her head in her husband’s chest for a moment,” before thanking everyone, said Leslie Horak, community relations representative in Santa Rosa who helped arrange the surprise.
Davis just graduated from Santa Rosa Junior College and will attend Sonoma State University in the fall where she will major in psychology. One of her college professors was at the announcement as well as a provost from the university. In her bio, Davis talked about witnessing violence and abuse as a child and wanting to help those coping with issues related to childhood abuse.
Raymond Chan, 17, was surprised in his classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento where he was presented with a cake, balloons and an oversized check that signified his scholarship win.
Influenced by his brother’s asthma from air pollution, Chan is interested in engineering alternative energy. Among his planned pursuits is to develop genetically engineered machines to produce electric-hybrid applications.
Chan took on additional responsibilities in his family after his father’s death from lung cancer. He has been involved in community service to help the less fortunate and has been a member and leader in organizations including the National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation. Chan will attend Stanford University in the fall where he plans to major in mechanical engineering.
In all, 8,060 students applied for the scholarships, which will award up to $30,000 a year to the winners.
PG&E worked with the non-profit Scholarship Management Services to process the applications. The winners were ultimately chosen by a committee that reviewed the selected applications.
More winners will be announced later this week. This is the first year that PG&E has awarded its Bright Minds scholarships, but the utility’s employee resource groups have provided more than $2 million in scholarships to hundreds of recipients throughout Northern and Central California since 1989. In 2012, the employee groups are awarding $302,000 in scholarships to 163 students.
Email Tracy Correa at firstname.lastname@example.org.