By Vince Echavaria
Scott Pine had to learn the hard way that he was meant to do bigger things than football.
As a football player at Venice High School, Pine suffered the effects of a concussion that left his ability to read, write and speak severely impaired. Soon after the injury, he began suffering migraines, losing some memory and had difficulty holding conversations.
But Pine was undeterred and pushed himself to overcome the physical challenges that knocked him from the football field. Through the recovery process, Pine realized there was a different path ahead than football, one that led to advancing his education and working toward a fulfilling career.
“I’ve always been an ambitious and passionate person in whatever I dedicate myself to,” said Pine, who grew up in a divorced home as the oldest of four children. “I realized I was misplaced in football, and that no one is going to take care of myself or provide me with a future unless I make it happen.”
The Venice High graduate was also inspired by the autobiography of civil rights icon Malcolm X, whose story taught Pine about overcoming struggles and influenced him to get involved in his community. “It was definitely a journey, and the path has led me to the individual I am today,” Pine said of his battle to recover from his injuries and work toward his future.
His educational path took him to Santa Monica College, where he was recently selected to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the largest private-funded scholarship of its kind in the nation. He was one of only 73 students chosen from 769 nominees from 377 community colleges and is just the second student in SMC history to be honored. It was the second time in three years that an SMC student was awarded the prestigious scholarship.
The recipients, who are chosen by a selection committee of 37 admissions professionals, will receive up to $30,000 a year to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities.
“Scott is a remarkable young man who is determined, goal-oriented and has distinguished himself as an outstanding student,” SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang said. “He is extremely focused on getting an education and he is on a mission.”
Barbara Ige, who conducted one of the interviews of Pine at SMC, said he has a “very mature grasp on the big picture” and was impressed with his story. “To have had to relearn how to read and write, and how he now sees the importance of an education and the way he has turned his life around since high school is phenomenal and really inspiring,” Ige said.
A psychology major, Pine said he was “filled with tears of joy” in learning of the scholarship and was very thankful for the support he received from professors, mentors and student colleagues, who included former scholarship recipient Stephen Olsen. By earning the award, Pine said he can show his younger siblings that having well-defined goals and ambition to overcome difficult circumstances can help one achieve great things.
Pine’s mentor, Dr. Lisa Farwell, the chair of psychology at SMC, where Pine has been engaged in original research in psychology, was gratified to learn how he was one of a select few Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winners. “They couldn’t have picked a better person; I absolutely think they made a wonderful choice and think he’s a terrific investment of their resources,” said Farwell, adding that Pine is a delight to work with.
One of the causes in the community that Pine has taken on in the past few years is an effort to erect a memorial marker signifying the Venice location from where more than 1,000 Japanese-American men, women and children boarded buses in April 1942 to be transported to the Manzanar internment camp for the remainder of World War II. When Pine was a student at Venice High, he saw a photo of the historic occurrence and brought it to the attention of his history class and then-teacher, Phyllis Hayashibara, who discussed the idea of a memorial marker with Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
The effort reinitiated a push to install a marker at Venice and Lincoln boulevards to make reference to the internment of thousands of Japanese-American citizens, a project now being spearheaded by the memorial marker committee. Pine believes the project is important because “history tends to repeat itself,” and it can send a message that the imprisonment of an ethnic group should never occur again.
“I’m so happy because Lincoln and Venice is such a big intersection where some diverse groups of people pass by daily and this can be a great reminder and learning lesson for those who experienced it, who know nothing about it and who will learn about it to ensure that this never happens again,” Pine said.
Hayashibara said Pine has remained active in the functions of the memorial marker committee and believes he has grown a great deal as a person since he was in her class.
“He’s part of a generation of young people out there who are interested in doing good for the community,” Hayashibara said.
Ige thinks Pine demonstrated his maturity by learning about an historic event in class and applying it to a real world experience. While Pine is part Filipino and not of the ethnic group that faced imprisonment during Word War II, Ige said “he still recognizes the importance of righting a wrong in history.”
During his time at SMC, Pine served as one of 13 President’s Ambassador Students who greet guests at public events and conduct tours of the campus for prospective students.
A Dale Ride intern, Pine will serve his internship in the American Psychological Association’s Public Interest and Government Relations Office in Washington, D.C. this summer.
Pine is still undecided about transferring to UCLA or Claremont McKenna College, but he hopes to pursue a PhD in either social psychology or industrial-organizational psychology. The scholarship will cover his tuition, living expenses, supplies and other costs, freeing him from the need to work to stay in school and allowing him to focus on “what I do best – being a student,” he says.
“It really makes me happy to know that people are willing to make the sacrifice and invest in my potential and allow me to reach my full potential as a student and a young adult citizen through higher education,” Pine said.