Above: Pichardo was among the participants in a project developing methods to detect sulfur and selenium in the Salton Sea

The UC Santa Cruz Alumni Scholarship Fund is raising money and awareness for scholarships that boost socially conscious, outstanding young scholars facing financial hardships.

The hard-working Alumni Council gives awards to incoming students who have a GPA of 3.5 or higher from their high schools or from the colleges from

Alumni Association Scholarship Fund honoree Michelle Pichardo (College Nine ’22, applied physics), a junior transfer and first-generation physics student

which they’ve transferred to UC Santa Cruz. In addition to benefiting high-achieving students, the fund is also a great way for alumni to become involved with the academic careers of future Slugs.

“Alumni want to support new generations of Banana Slugs,” said Shayna Kent, executive director of alumni engagement for UC Santa Cruz. “This is a meaningful and important volunteer opportunity for alumni to help support some of our most economically disadvantaged students, hopefully providing a sense of relief so the students can focus more on their academics.”

The UCSC Alumni Council established the endowed Alumni Association Scholarship Fund (AASF) in 1991 to meet the pressing need for increased private support for UC Santa Cruz students. Working closely with UC Santa Cruz’s Financial Aid Office, the council distributes the scholarships at the beginning of fall quarter. The $3,000 scholarships follow the students throughout their time at UC Santa Cruz.

Scholarship recipients are recognized at an Alumni Council meeting, and are invited to a variety of alumni events throughout the year.

Selecting each year’s group of scholarship recipients is a labor of love for the selection committee.

“Each applicant shared a piece of their heart with us,” said Anna Gururajan (Oakes ’15, molecular, cell and development biology).

It’s all part of giving back to the campus that nurtured the members of the scholarship committee.

“It’s the spirit that UC Santa Cruz instilled in me,” Gururajan said. “I would be humbled if I can even pass on an ounce of that feeling through my volunteering efforts.”

Students do not apply for these cash awards, but the selection committee reads their UC Santa Cruz admissions applications. The financial aid office sends the selection committee a group of applications to review each year.

The volunteer selection committee, made up of councilors and alumni volunteers, makes its scholarship decisions based on resilience, commitment to service, initiative, and thirst for knowledge. In the past 20 years of its existence, the fund has offered scholarships to 485 students.

This year the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund is distributing 49 awards, including two named scholarship gifts in honor of Eric Thomas (Oakes ’84, economics), a past president of the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association who died in 2004. Thomas was deputy executive director of the California State Treasurer’s Office.

Conner Boggan (Porter ’25, computer science) served as a panelist for a candidates’ forum for the city council of his hometown, Chula Vista, which led to an internship.

This year’s honorees are Conner Boggan (Porter ’25, computer science) and Michelle Pichardo (College Nine ’22, applied physics), a junior transfer and first-generation student.

Each applicant shares a formative story in their application. Pichardo mentioned volunteering as a tutor in her hometown.

“I am extremely thankful to be selected to represent this foundation and Eric Thomas,” Pichardo said. “This scholarship is helping me with rent and utilities. Currently, I live in my hometown, but I am saving to move out to Santa Cruz; every cent is being saved for the move. I’m hoping once I’m on campus, I can join a lab and get to work.”

Boggan impressed the selection panel with his story, included in his application to UC Santa Cruz, about serving as a panelist for a candidates’ forum for the city council of his hometown, Chula Vista. There, he met Jill Galvez, now a city council member, who offered him an internship.

Boggan said his first weeks in that internship were a nonstop, immersive experience.

“I shook more hands that week than it feels like I have my whole life,” Boggan said.

He took part in planning the grand opening of a dog park, and participated in a neighborhood mural project aimed at curbing graffiti. By the time he got his UCSC acceptance letter, “the mural project was in full swing,” he said. “The murals were gorgeous, and we had so much support from the community.”

Selection committee chair Corinne Kappeler (Kresge ’11, sociology and film) is inspired by the stories of the students.

“We read about all that they’ve come up against and what they’ve been able to get through. They are magnificent, creative, and very intelligent. I’m dedicated to just making sure we keep increasing the [scholarship] fund and making sure everybody knows about it.”

When Kappeler reads the student essays, she reflects on her own path to UC Santa Cruz. She grew up in Salinas, and applied to UC Santa Cruz without knowing if she would be able to go.

“I couldn’t afford it,’’ she said. But scholarships made her dream possible. “I felt very supported in college, so when I was 8 to 10 years out of school, I really wanted to give back in a meaningful way. Most of all, I wanted to reconnect with my campus community and help uplift students who were in a similar place.”

Please consider making a gift to the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund.

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