The Rotary Club of Westchester honors 2020 scholarship winners

By Dev Jaiswal

Local high school graduates Rickey McGregor and Elon Morris pose with their awards
Photos by Luis Chavez

Senior year looked very different for most of West Los Angeles’ 2020 high school graduates.

In-person classes? No. College visits? Nope. Prom? Absolutely not. Graduation? Too bad. And for the six Rotary Club of Westchester scholarship recipients from Playa del Rey’s Saint Bernard High School and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet, no traditional awards ceremony either.

Due to this year’s pandemic, the Rotary Club had to cancel their usual buffet meal at the LAX-adjacent Crowne Plaza Hotel honoring recipients of their scholarship awards program. But the club got creative and instead threw a celebratory drive-thru ceremony on June 24 at the Westchester Family YMCA Annex. Scholarship winners waited in their cars while Rotary Club staff members delivered recipients their scholarship checks, balloons and pizza from Westchester’s Tower Pizza. The recipients then posed for a socially-distanced photo-op.

The club also awarded $500 mini-grants to seven teachers for the purchase of classroom items such as stability balls, math manipulatives and workbooks for dyslexic students.

The Rotary Club is involved in many other year-round service projects, including delivering food, partnering with high school entrepreneurship programs, participating in humanitarian work in Mexico and running book sales.

“We have fun doing it,” said Darlene Fukuji, outgoing president of the Rotary Club of Westchester. “We go off each other’s energy here and we’re having fun being entrepreneurial in these trying times because we see that the community needs us now more than ever.”

Winners of scholarships in the amount of $2000 are Saint Bernard graduates Rickey McGregor and Madison Brown and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet graduates Elon Morris and Dere Je Assefa. Winners of “Interact” scholarships ($500) are Saint Bernard graduate Ashanti Salazar and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet graduate Lenny Marquez.

“I would like to thank God and my parents for helping me achieve this scholarship,” says McGregor, who will be attending UC Berkeley. “My parents instilled in me the discipline I needed at an early age, and I wouldn’t have achieved this scholarship without them.”

Winners most commonly directed their thank-yous towards parents, Rotary Club staff and high school English teachers. Marquez further explained how the scholarship will help him start college at San Diego State University.

“I am really happy and grateful for this scholarship,” Marquez said. “It means a lot coming from Rotary, especially since I have been apart of Interact since my freshman year. This is really going to help me this fall semester as I am going to be away from home. This will be helping me with food costs and school supplies I’ll be needing/using this fall.”

Salazar was also involved in Interact Club, the Rotary’s club for young people.

“Growing up, I didn’t have the privileges that other students have,” said Salazar, who plans to attend UCLA. “But I work to show that these privileges don’t matter if you work hard. I hope to be an inspiration for these communities that I work with, which may make them want to do the same.”

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