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OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Dough-Getters : Ambitious students at Kennedy High don't just aspire to college; they cash in on their dreams. Members of the Class of '94 were offered $2.5 million in financial aid.

July 22, 1994|WILLIAM WU | William Wu is a member of the Class of 1994 at Kennedy High School in La Palma, where this article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Shamrock

Bringing together deserving students and college scholarship money is not an automatic process. As Kennedy High School in La Palma learned this past year, a determined effort on the part of students, parents and school officials can dramatically increase the success of the matchmaking process.

The Class of 1994 at Kennedy received offers of $2.5 million in financial aid, a school record and a sevenfold increase over the previous year. The total includes multiple offers received by some students from different institutions. Aid varied from small grants to full-ride scholarships. For example, an appointment to West Point, secured by one student, is valued over four years at $220,000.

"This was an exceptional senior class. I'm very proud of the many admissions to prestigious schools and the dozens of scholarships received by this deserving group," academic counselor April Pflug said.

Among those receiving major awards were standout athletes and top academic students, some getting the premier financial aid package: full-ride scholarships that cover all the costs of a college education, including room and board, tuition, meal passes, fees and books.

With the support of the school principal, Pflug said she and the other academic counselor at the 1,700-student school decided early in the school year to help students realize college ambitions by encouraging them to seek financial aid.

"If we thought a student might be eligible for a certain scholarship, we encouraged that student to apply, apply, apply," Pflug said. Many scholarships go unclaimed, she said, because students think they won't qualify and don't apply.

Pflug says she wrote countless student recommendations and worked extensively with several students one-on-one to ensure they received the aid they deserved. And she kept the class up to date on new scholarship opportunities throughout the year.

Pflug also solicited student grants from businesses in La Palma and Cypress. The businesses responded, providing a new source of funds for many students who will attend community colleges.

Parents got in on the act by participating in the school's PLUS (Parents Learning University Strategies) program, which was started several years ago. The four-night course helps parents understand the college application and financial aid process. It's recommended that parents take the course when their children enter high school to help a college-bound student stay on track.

Here's a look at some of Kennedy's scholarship recipients:

Wesley Morris will attend Utah State on a full-ride football scholarship. At Utah, he will play cornerback and special teams. Morris was an all-league wide receiver on the league champion football team. He also lettered in basketball and baseball.

"It feels great to get a scholarship. Utah's pretty far, so it will be harder to adjust, but I know in the long run it will be for the best," Morris said.

Wendy Martin will be swimming for UC Berkeley next year, also on a full-ride scholarship. Her list of accomplishments includes league records in the 50-yard and 500-yard freestyle. She was a competitor in the Senior Nationals Swimming Championships and was selected girls' academic athlete of the year at Kennedy.

"I never thought all my hard work and training would result in my attending such a high-ranked university," Martin said.

Two members from the softball team captured full-ride scholarships: Laurie Fritz will attend UCLA, and Joy Hannifin is heading to the University of New Mexico. Both were previous all-league selections on Kennedy's powerhouse team, which has been ranked in the top three in the county for the past two years.

"I am happy to see that all of my hard work and dedication has paid off," Fritz said. Hannifin said she was glad her skills attracted attention. "When I made my decision about attending UNM, I felt relieved to know that I'm one step closer to my goals in life."

Several top academic students also garnered major awards.

Danny Tsai and Lavonne Sheng each won USC Trustee Scholarships. Trustee scholarships, worth $70,000 over four years, are awarded to 100 incoming USC freshmen.

Tsai has a 1450 SAT score and a 4.44 GPA, but he said he thought his chances for an award were slim. "Getting the scholarship was surprising because the competition was incredibly stiff," Tsai said.

Sheng, who has a 1460 SAT score and a 4.48 GPA, recently appeared on the NBC morning talk show "Leeza" to speak about her accomplishment. "I'm very honored at having won a trustee scholarship, and I'm looking forward to attending USC in the fall," Sheng said.

Mintak Joo received a $20,000 scholarship from Southern California Edison. His outstanding academic record (1540 SAT, 4.51 GPA) and service as president for two years of Kennedy's Future Business Leaders of America chapter elevated him to the top of the 1,100 candidates. He will attend Stanford University but was also offered admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It's a great honor to be selected not only because it's worth so much, but because so many students were involved," Joo said.

Laurence Montoya was offered five different school scholarships, including ones from Princeton and Stanford, but he decided on Yale. He received about $15,000 in grants.

Three aspiring pre-medicine students--Jerome Espinoza, Milli Kim and Sanda Lee--will receive $1,500-a-year scholarships from Los Alamitos Medical Center.

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