Home News Ag Economics Westlands Water District Announces 2024 Scholarship Winners

Westlands Water District Announces 2024 Scholarship Winners

Westlands Water District is proud to announce the recipients of its 2024 Westlands Scholarship. The annual Westlands Scholarship program recognizes and rewards exceptional graduating seniors from westside high schools. This year, the District is proud to extend the scholarship to support 20 youth in achieving their higher-education goals. Each scholarship recipient was selected based on a combination of academic achievements, leadership, contributions to the local community, and future career goals.

“Westlands is honored to support the educational journey of some of our region’s outstanding youth for the 18th year,” said Allison Febbo, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “Recognizing that education can be expensive, we hope to help reduce barriers for students in our communities to pursue college and career paths so that they can achieve their dreams. These talented students are the ones who will define the future of the Central Valley.”

The District congratulates the following 20 recipients of the 2024 Westlands Scholarship. Amongst our recipients we have future leaders in education, healthcare, business, and science.  Below are excerpts from each recipient’s application when asked about the importance of agriculture and water in the San Joaquin Valley.

Moises Solorio, Future Ag. Business Leader

Avenal High School – California State University, Fresno

“Agricultural water plays a crucial role in sustaining communities and livelihoods. Many families in the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley depend on agriculture for employment and income. Whether they work directly on farms, in agricultural support industries, or in businesses that benefit from the agricultural sector, water is essential for maintaining these jobs and preserving the fabric of rural communities.”

Angelina Lee, Future Nurse

Coalinga High School – California State University, Fresno

“My family comes from a generation of farmers. It is all my family has known since immigrating to the United States since they never realized or learned the importance of getting an education… Agriculture has opened many doors for my family. It has helped keep my family alive and well and provided many opportunities for us.”

Susana Licea, Future Registered Nurse

Coalinga High School – West Hills College

“Agriculture plays a crucial role in the economy of California and the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The agricultural industry provides employment opportunities for thousands of people, from farmers and farmworkers to truck drivers and food processors. Without reliable access to water for irrigation, farms wouldn’t be able to operate efficiently, leading to job losses and economic instability in rural communities.”

Nolan Herrin, Future Business Leader

Coalinga High School – California State University, Fresno

“I was born in 2006. I have been riding around the farm for as long as I can remember. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that I got my first job checking wells for my dad. Then, from there in the summer of 2022, I started working with my grandpa Chuck, learning the many aspects of farm labor contracting. I did that again in the summer of 2023, and plan on working for either my dad or grandpa again this summer. During my lifetime, I have had a first-hand view of how important agriculture is and how many lives are affected by it. Not only does agriculture put food on the table for every person in the world. It is also how my family and so many others make a living within the Westlands Water District.”

Angela Rosa, Future Biologist

Firebaugh High School – California State University, Fresno

“Once I grew older I realized the importance of agriculture in our community, and how it helped my father stay secure, so I became involved in agriculture at our school. I volunteered at our annual Ag Awareness Day, to ensure young children know and understand the opportunities agricultural jobs provide. Although it might seem that agriculture affected my life negatively because of the circumstances we faced, without my father working in this field we would not have a home. And so for that I encourage agricultural education because this is a pathway that will always be secure in California.”

Isabella Silva, Future Nurse

Sierra Pacific High School – California State University, Fresno

“Its impact extends beyond serving as a cornerstone that has shaped the opportunities available to my parents in ways that were previously inconceivable to my grandparents. Agriculture has bestowed upon my family a foundational platform that we cherish deeply, filled with immense gratitude. As Steve Jobs famously remarked, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I am thankful to leverage the successes that agriculture has bestowed upon my family, using them as stepping stones to further elevate my achievements and pave the path for future prosperity.”

Brayson Gillio, Future Ag. Business Leader

Sierra Pacific High School – California State University, Fresno

“I am devoted to assisting my father with our 65-year-old family business, which I hope to be the owner of one day. This will make me the fourth-generation owner of our company. My goal would be to expand this business and gain the education to help better assist the community.”

Sofia Godinho, Future Speech Pathologist

Sierra Pacific High School – San Diego State

“The west side of the San Joaquin Valley, with its fertile soil and ample water supply, supports the growth of a wide variety of crops. Without sufficient agricultural water, the region would struggle to meet the demand for fresh produce, impacting the availability and affordability of food for millions of people.”

Jason McDonald, Future Education Leader

Lemoore High School – Minot State University

“Water to the San Joaquin Valley is crucial for the people who own farms and those making a living providing the state its rich products. Products such as fruit and vegetables, cotton, feed for the meat products that we purchase and the dairy products we consume. Water makes all of this happen. When the farmers do not get the water needed it creates a ripple effect. Less water equals less crops, equals higher prices for all products. Less crops equal less workers needed. This effects towns and cities as people follow the work and towns dry up people move away.”

Daisy Albarran, Future Administration of Justice Leader

Lemoore High School – West Hills College Lemoore

“While my parents were able to further their education in college, my grandparents continued to work in the fields for Wonderful Company for years after my parents had left Avenal. It is thanks to our valley’s agriculture that has kept my grandparents employed, supported their families, and brought greater opportunities to each generation after them. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices they have made to come to this country and the hard work that they have put in to make their dreams come true. The Central Valley is my home, and I hope to help my local community continue to thrive as I become a working member of it myself after I graduate high school.”

Paige Orton, Future Teacher

Lemoore Middle College High School – Brigham Young University Idaho

“Agriculture is a part of our lives every single day. Despite taking care of the land and animals and it being very time-consuming, I enjoy it. I enjoy raising chickens. I enjoy helping my father when he needs it. I enjoy any opportunity to see and hang out with him when he isn’t outside or at the ranch. I enjoy being deemed responsible for taking care of other lives. I raise my own plants too. Having agriculture as a part of my life every single day makes me want to keep doing it.”

Arley Melendez, Future Political Science Leader

Mendota High School – UC Berkeley

“The loss of water will impact thousands of families who work in the fields. Families who have no high school degree, who can’t speak English, and who don’t have citizenship. Families like mine. According to Maven’s article, over 42,000 jobs are expected to be lost due to groundwater restrictions from SGMA. Moving forward, there is still uncertainty, but one thing is evident: water keeps the world and society revolving.”

Aylany Macias, Future Medicine/Public Health Official

Mendota High School – UC San Diego

“Despite its challenges, agriculture has been the one factor that has helped us survive. Due to agriculture, we’re allowed to have a roof above us and a food on the table every day. My exposure to agriculture has also allowed me to realize that I want to aspire for bigger and better things. Everyday as I see my parents leave the house at three in the morning to work in those fields, I think of the opportunities I can take advantage of to make my future better.”

Cherrilyn Segovia Ruiz, Future Pediatrician

Mendota High School – UCLA

“Across our community, many families rely on agricultural jobs to make ends meet and create better prospects for their loved ones. It’s a testament to their hard work and dedication to providing for their families while contributing to the agricultural industry’s vitality.”

Maria Mendoza, Future Public Health Official

Mendota High School – Cal Poly

“The summer of eighth grade was the first time I got to go work with them. I remember

that day we were told we had to clean tomatoes by removing weeds. The hot sun was unbearable, but I was somehow able to do it for the entire two months of summer break. In those two months, I learned agriculture’s invaluable effect on my life. Agriculture wasn’t just a means to an end; it was the very foundation upon which my dreams were built. It provided not only a source of income but a sense of pride and purpose.”

Leonel Solorio, Future Biologist

Riverdale High School – California State University Monterey Bay

“The agricultural industry has affected my life because it was my job in the summertime. Even though I was working under extreme conditions it has made me value education. My family thinks that agriculture is just manual labor, however, there is so much more. When I was younger, we struggled to have food on the table. Knowing the struggle of going hungry pushed me to want to make a difference and help others not go through hunger. I volunteer for my local Lanare Community Food Bank four times per month, sometimes even more. I coordinate food deliveries, pack food, distribute to families, and translate. I derive more satisfaction from making a lasting difference in my community than spending my free time at home.”

Angela Vazquez Solorio, Future Mathematician

Riverdale High School – Lemoore College

“My dad used to work in a dairy, where his schedule would change every few weeks. Because of his experience working in agriculture, he taught me to be a person who can adapt. Now, he does tractor maintenance on a farm. Agriculture has affected how comfortable my life is. My family can have food on the table because of the jobs agriculture provides. Not only that, everyone has food on the table because of the agricultural business and the hard work of agricultural workers.”

Jimena Arias Estrada, Future Business Administrator

Riverdale High School – CSU Sacramento

“Both of my parents came to California from Mexico to give me and my siblings a better future. I have 2 older siblings and 1 younger brother. Since I was born, my dad has been my family’s only financial provider. He has always worked in the agriculture industry. He transfers and spreads soil in the fields. Although he has had a few different jobs as time has progressed, they have all been in the agriculture field and his job alone has been able to support me and my family throughout all my life.”

Denise Torres, Future Psychologist

Tranquility High School – CSU San Francisco

“I am the oldest child in my family and the daughter of two immigrants. I knew I wanted a better future for my family and myself as I saw my father’s daily struggles and spent the few hours a day he spent with me at night and after he got home from work. I had to take on the role of mother to my siblings at this point. My mom’s death left our family struggling as a whole. In our tiny apartment, my dad was the only one who could support the family.”

Oscar Duran Vega, Future Food Scientist

Tranquility High School – California State University, Fresno

“My family’s livelihood also depends on agriculture. Both my parents work as agricultural workers. If agriculture didn’t exist, my parents would not have jobs. If agriculture also didn’t exist, some of my favorite classes for high school work would not be available. Some of my favorite teachers are also a part of the Ag industry. My two favorite classes are Ag banking, and Mech 2. I have learned a lot from these two classes.”

About Westlands Water District

Westlands Water District is recognized as a world leader in agricultural water conservation and has served the farmers and rural communities on the west side of Fresno and Kings counties for more than five decades. As stewards of one of California’s most precious natural resources, Westlands continually invests in conservation, and champions farmers deploying innovative irrigation methods based on the best available technology.

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