In 2008 CAA created The Equity Scholarship, a four-year, merit-based scholarship that funds five new underrepresented minority students each year with a $5,000 annual stipend.
“With Prop. 209 [eliminating Affirmative Action] being the law of the land, the problem was that there were extremely well qualified minority students who were choosing not to come here because they felt they weren’t welcome here, and nothing could be further from the truth,” says Darek DeFreece ’93, who was CAA president when the scholarship was started. “By offering them financial assistance to come here, we were directly attacking that concept.”
The first cohort of Equity Scholars graduated last spring, and we caught up with three of them to find out what they’ve been up to since then.
“I’m currently working as the intake advisor for the Biosciences Division at Cal, as well as studying for my MCAT,” says Claudia Rocha ’13. “I can’t wait to become a doctor! I really want to work in urban, low-income areas where I can be the most useful, not only because of my background but also because I am extremely passionate about eliminating health care disparities.”
Mitra Vijeh ’13 is also headed to med school. In the meantime, she’s working as an EMT on an ambulance in Alameda County, a good preparation for her chosen specialty. “I really like working in an emergency room, and the adrenaline rush is pretty cool.”
Yet a third scholar is headed into medicine—but on the administrative side. “I want to run my own hospital,” explains Nayely Chavez ’13. A Public Health major with a minor in Public Policy, she’s currently working for Triage Consulting Group, which specializes in helping hospitals recover money due to them from recalcitrant insurance companies.
And all three say their Equity Scholarships made all the difference.
“My experience at Cal was as awesome as it possibly could be, and The Equity Scholarship had a lot to do with it,” says Vijeh. “It allowed me to be a part of Cal instead of just go to Cal.” “Had I not received The Equity Scholarship, I would have had a very different college experience because I would have had the additional stress of worrying about money,” says Chavez.
“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have to go to another school because of my financial situation,” says Rocha. “Because of The Equity Scholarship, I was able to attend the university I knew I was meant to attend.”
This is music to the ears of DeFreece, who credits former board members Holly Lake ’93 and Josh Fryday ’03, J.D. ’09, for originating The Equity Scholarship. “It proves to me that it was the right thing to do,” DeFreece says. “I hope it grows and more students get the opportunity to be Equity Scholars.”
—Martin Snapp, California magazine