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Success Stories

We would love to hear from you! Click here to share your SDEF success story.

I want to share the great news. I was just appointed by SDUSD as the Vice Principal at Hoover High School, my alma mater! I am still a bit shocked and can’t believe how lucky I am. I cannot thank you enough for all of your support to complete my education at SDSU and become a teacher. I am dreaming awake thanks to you. I am and will always be grateful! Without the San Diego Education Fund, my life would have taken a different spin. Looking forward to this BIG Dream! 


- Carlos Ramirez, Vice Principal, Hoover High School   

I graduated from Scripps Ranch High School in 1997 and my high school counselor, Jane Morrill, recommended that I apply for a SDEF scholarship and I was thrilled to become a recipient! I received by BA degree and teaching credential from CSUSM and the SDEF scholarship was extremely helpful as a first generation college student with no financial support from home! I can remember clearly the excitement when going to pick-up my stipend which allowed me the opportunity to really focus on studies. In 2013, I received a Master’s Degree in Educational Counseling with a PPS credential. While the prospects of a job after graduation seemed meager, I never gave up and with the help of my mentor (Jane Morill, who is still a counselor at SRHS), I got a job as a counselor at the high school I graduated from! Please extend my gratitude to the Board of Directors and anyone else involved in the scholarship, it certainly made a difference for me and I am excited to be in a position to recommend future scholars!

- Justina Estrada, School Counselor, Scripps Ranch High School.

The SDEF scholarship has helped pay my college tuition and every single dollar counts, especially since I attend the University of San Diego, which is a private catholic college near Mission Bay. As a first generation college student, I strive to not only earn my degree in Mathematics but I want to demonstrate to my younger sister, who is in her 2nd year in high school, that going to college is challenging yet rewarding at the same time. After graduating from high school, I knew in the back of my mind that college in general was going to involve a different life style as opposed to high school. This meant no more school buses and no more free and reduced lunch. Despite not getting these “free perks” anymore, this SDEF scholarship has helped me transition smoothly from life in high school to college life; I feel more responsible in terms of accomplishing my homework, studying and doing well on exams. I also have more flexibility in terms of how I divide up my time throughout the day. All in all, I would definitely recommend this scholarship to any person who is passionate about the college experience.

- Oliver Flores Balanzar

I was admitted to the SDEF scholars program my senior year of high school. I had heard about

it from my ROP teacher at Patrick Henry, as she encouraged future teachers to apply. I am now in my 5th year at San Diego State University and pursuing an Education Specialist Credential for Mild/Moderate disabilities. I am student teaching in San Diego Unified and have accepted a contract for next school year. I have also applied to the Master’s Program at SDSU through the College of Education. My college experience is due in large part to this scholarship and the counseling that I have received in this program. I have had amazing opportunities from these connections and even spoke on KUSI about the Fund!

- Christina Conley     

I am currently a first-year graduate student in the Molecular and Cancer Biology Program at Duke University. Soon after I get my PhD, I plan to find a faculty position within five years, and will start mentoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds (not that I won’t try to do it along the way).


- Abraham Nguyen, UCSD, BS, Neuroscience and Physiology 

Being awarded the SDEF scholarship gave me hope. It gave me the support I needed and made me realize that I can be successful in college.  Before, I was terrified to think college was my next step in life. Now, this scholarship makes me want to do everything in my power to graduate from college in four years and earn my teaching credential. The scholarship funds will go to books, tests, and tuition. These funds also lift a weight off of my shoulders, knowing that I have the support of a different family, my academic family. 

- Starr DeAlba 

SDEF has assisted me in connecting to new people, which has allowed me to expand my opportunities. In high school, I was introduced to SDEF via SDEF Mentor, Ms. Castleberry. Since then, she has assisted me wonderfully to ensure my success at SDSU. Then, last year while attending a college fair to represent SDEF, I made contact with a representative from Azusa Pacific University. Afterwards, I applied and was admitted to the teaching credential program. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to earn my education.

- Thomas Diaz, SDSU Graduate / Teaching Credential program at Azusa Pacific University

Currently, I am studying abroad at Mannheim University for the Fall of 2017 semester. I made the Dean’s List while at Cal-State San Marcos and volunteered at a German Immersion school. I started out with a chemistry major, but after two years, realized that chemistry was not for me. I switched to German, because of my passion for learning languages. The meetings with SDEF Mentor, Ms. Castleberry, helped point me in the right direction not only in regards to graduating, but also getting a teaching credential. Meeting with future and current educators never fails to keep me motivated toward my goal of becoming a teacher. 

- Anderson Tablas, Senior at SDSD majoring in German

In my second year, I lost some financial aid from other sources but that did not stop me from going to school. Since the SDEF scholarship is continuous, year after year, I knew that I had to keep my grades high. Because I did, I was able to apply for others scholarships. As of today, I am debt-free and continuing my dream of becoming a teacher. Thank you for the moral support of the SDEF scholarship. 

- Alberto Vega Hernandez, Junior at SDSU, majoring in Liberal Studies

Growing up in a family of two former math teachers, I knew at a young age that I will pursue in higher education. What I did not know, however, was how to pay for it. Struggling financially after immigrating to America, my family's situation serves as a daily reminder that I must give my best at school to become a well-qualified applicant for college scholarships and have the opportunity to better my future through education. The SDEF scholarship serves as a stepping stone that will push me one step closer toward accomplishing my lifelong goals. As I look back on my childhood in Vietnam, it was apparent to me the difficult life of those with disabilities. Due to lack of government supports and good healthcare facilities, many with disabilities lived in poverty or ended up on the streets. As the result, my career goal is to design and develop assistive devices that will give individuals with disabilities better chances in pursuing higher education and finding employment opportunities. I want to work with hospitals and research centers to aid members of low-income communities with reasonably priced devices and one day brings my innovations back to my country.

- Duyen Tran, Freshman at UCSD, majoring in Bioengineering

I recently graduated Summa Cum Laude at CSU San Marcos. I am currently enrolled a program where I am working on three teaching credentials and a Master's degree in Education. SDEF has been a tremendous blessing in my life and in my education. The fact that I was awarded with this scholarship gave me hope and perseverance. I am grateful to SDEF for your generosity and helping me with my financial burdens. My goal is to complete this concurrent teaching credential program and be ready and inspired to be a great teacher in the San Diego Unified School District.

- Erica Piper, California State University, San Marcos Graduate, Summa Cum Laude /Teaching Credential program

My goal is to become a high school English teacher. I know the SDEF scholarship will help me achieve my goals.

- Alexandra Palomera, Sophomore at SDSU, majoring in English

My goal is to become a high school math teacher. I have always loved math and have excelled in it. I have also always loved helping others and that is why I want to become a teacher. My mom is a teacher and has been a huge inspiration for me. I'm excited to get to major in something I love and stay so close to home. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity!

- Mackenzie Kelly, Freshman at SDSU, majoring in Mathematics for Secondary Education

I have many goals in the future. Not only do I want to teach high school calculus, but I also want to be a mentor and a role model. his spark first lit inside of me when I was in middle school and my desire to become a teacher has only grown since. Thanks to the SDEF scholarship, I am one step closer. The scholarship funds provided will all go towards paying my tuition, and I hope to utilize all of the mentorship opportunities and provisions provided by the San Diego Education Fund.

- Amanda Huynh, Freshman at UCSD, majoring in Mathematics for Secondary Education