By David Kligman
A young woman who has literally dreamed of being a nurse since she was a girl was surprised to learn today (June 12) that she will get a little help from PG&E with a $30,000-a-year renewable Bright Minds scholarship.
PG&E invited Christina Taft of Paradise to its Chico office under the guise of a final interview. When she arrived, employees cheered her as TV cameras captured the shocked community college student’s reaction. At first she wasn’t even sure what she had won. (See Taft’s reaction in this KRCR-TV’s news report.)
“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Taft recalled in an interview with Currents. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What’s happening? Maybe this isn’t an interview.’”
Taft, 19, is one of 10 recipients in PG&E’s Northern and Central California service area to receive the award as part of the company’s $1 million Bright Minds Scholarship Program, which helps cover higher education expenses for high school, community college and “non-traditional” students.
The 10 students were among more than 6,000 applicants. More than 90 program finalists will receive $2,500 towards their college costs.
First-generation college student
Taft recently earned two associate degrees — she’s the first in her family to go to college — from Butte College. She has enrolled at California State University, Chico, in the fall and hopes to become a nurse.
It’s a career she said she’s destined to pursue. Taft said she has had recurring dreams since she was 8 of healing those who are injured. Even she admits it’s an unconventional pathway to a career.
“That’s kind of crazy, right?” she said. “Who does that?”
She may not yet be a nurse, but Taft already is helping others in her community. She has volunteered in an emergency room and hospice, as well as a homeless center and Meals on Wheels.
“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.
The Bright Minds program awards scholarships to high school students and non-traditional students currently attending post-secondary schools. Scholarship Management Services served as PG&E’s facilitator for its Bright Minds Program and selected the scholarship recipients.
“Too often, college students in their third, fourth or fifth years face the biggest financial challenges and, unfortunately, have to prolong or postpone their education,” said Barb Weber, vice president of Scholarship Management Services. “PG&E’s Bright Minds scholarship will help bridge the financial gap for these students to complete their education goals.”
Eight of 10 winning students notified
Eight students have now learned they won the $30,000 scholarships. They include Daniel Hardin, an aspiring civil rights attending Foothill College, who attended a surprise announcement delivered by PG&E President Chris Johns at the utility’s San Francisco office; Carlos Corona, a Fresno City College student and U.S. Army veteran; Lake County student Laura Onate Solis; Danny Wong, a graduate of Oakdale High School in Stanislaus County; Aaron Sproul from Cal State-Bakersfield; Sierra MacLeod from Galt in Sacramento County; and San Luis Obispo High School student Emma Phillips.
Taft said PG&E’s support will allow her to ease the financial burdens of her mother, who has glaucoma. Taft, herself legally blind since she was 13, lives at home and juggles her coursework while helping her mother with cooking, cleaning and other household chores.
Taft said she was humbled to receive the scholarship and never imagined winning. Now she looked forward to spending the afternoon calling her uncle and other family members who didn’t even know she had applied — let alone won.
“I have high expectations but I was thinking, ‘Wow, other people are probably better than me,’” she said. “I’m just so happy. It’s amazing.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.