The REACH Scholarship Awards were recently presented to eight remarkable young student athletes, who have used sports as a catalyst to overcome major hardships in their lives. They are very inspirational and the reason why professional athletes like Ronny Turiaf, who has had his own obstacles, volunteered to attend. The list of winners are below, along with a brief summary of their accomplishments.
For each of the last 14 years, the San Jose Sports Authority has recognized the drive, determination and perseverance of student athletes from high schools throughout Santa Clara County. Schools nominate qualified students and each student writes an essay describing the obstacles they have overcome. The essays are submitted to the San Jose Sports Authority and reviewed by the selection committee comprised of local media, sports industry representatives and community leaders and eight student athletes are selected to receive scholarships. To qualify for the scholarship, students must be a high school senior, maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, participated in at least one high school athletic activity, have demonstrated community involvement, and overcome adversity to reach his or her goals.
The 2010 REACH Awards program featured 20 student athletes from eight high schools, including Willow Glen, Eastside College Prep, Monta Vista, Santa Teresa, St. Francis, Archbishop Mitty, Valley Christian and Gilroy.
2010 REACH Scholarship recipients:
$3,000 Jonathan Martinez from Willow Glen High School As a sophomore soccer player Jonathan had a ball hit him in the pelvis during a game at Willow Glen High School. The pain was excruciating and after lasting for four days he decided to go to the doctor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 15 and unsure if he was going to live. For six months he went through chemo and radiation losing all of his hair, but despite the struggles he never lost sight of his goal of returning to the game and pursuing college. Jonathan finally made it back on the field the following season and as a senior led Willow Glen to its first ever CCS title game. He was also named Senior of the Year in the BVAL. The lesson he learned: "Never stop believing in yourself in any sport no matter what game situation you are in." $2,500 Darryl Sepulveda from Eastside College Prep Darryl Sepulveda's father left the family when he was one. He and his younger brother lived in a one bedroom apartment with their mother, uncle and grandparents. While his mom worked two jobs to provide for her kids, Darryl's uncle and grandparents sold drugs for a living. That, literally, came to a crashing hault when the FBI blew through the apartment door like a hurricane and arrested them for dealing and possession. It was a scene a frightened 4-year old will never forget. His life was nearly turned upside down one more time just four years later when immigration court threatened to deport her. The idea of losing his mother caused him to shut down and limit his efforts in school for the next three years. The final court hearing came when he was in 7th grade and when his mother was allowed to stay, Darryl almost instantly turned his life back around. The FBI and his mom's example of hard work provided him with the determination to always do better. Now he is about to become the first person in his family to go to college, posting a 3.1 GPA at Eastside College Prep and competing in soccer, volleyball and cross country.
$2,000 Ramya Kedlaya from Monta Vista High School Ramya's obstacle is physical and it overwhelmed her 11 years ago during her 6th birthday celebration. The happy 6-year old was skating with her friends at a local rollerskating rink even playing the Hokey Pokey when pain when racing through her legs. She dropped to the ground unable to walk and within seconds her life was altered forever. She called the hospital her second home for the next six months and despite all of the tests has never received a formal diagnosis of what causes her so much pain. Determined to live a normal life she bypassed the advice of doctors in order to compete in the sport she loves - field hockey. With ACE bandages covering every inch of her legs, she devotes 2-3 hours ever day to the sport while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
$1,500 Linda Ajoku from Santa Teresa High School At 15 years old, Linda was about to go through something very few of us experience until we are much older - she lost both parents in a six month period. First, after difficult struggle with diabetes her father passed away when doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do. In mourning for months, she struggled but made it through her freshman year, and then decided to get involved in volunteer work and basketball to keep her mind off of her loss. Later that summer, her mother was diagnosed with cancer which added more instability into her already fragile world. While holding onto the belief that her mom would be fine despite the obvious signs that things were getting worse, Linda returned from school one day only to find an ambulance outside of her house. Her mother lived in the hospital until passing away two months later. The loss tore her apart, but thanks to the support of her extended family on the high school basketball team, she was able to rally through the darkness and lift her slumping grades back up.
$1,500 Michael Condon from Saint Francis High School A brachial plexus injury to his left shoulder left Michael Condon with an inactive left arm. There was literally no nerve activity in the arm and initially physicians did not recommend any active therapy. Later, however, after consulting with an encouraging physical therapist, Michael did begin intense range of motion exercises that ultimately led to the nerves to his biceps firing again. Despite the improvements, he still has difficulty managing routine tasks like holding down a paper to write, using a keyboard with two hands or even filling out the bubbles on a multiple choice test. A permanently bent, immobile arm may play tricks on proper running technique, but it hasn't discouraged Michael from being become a valuable member of the St. Francis cross country team and from earning Eagle Scout honors. "Running through my injury has helped me see that hard work, persistence and a certain amount of deafness to those who say that things are impossible has and will enable me to reach beyond my expectations on and off the track."
$1,500 Mauricio Munoz from Willow Glen High School It was seven years ago when Mauricio received a message from his doctor that would forever change his life - he was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma. For two years he would go through intense chemotherapy, radiation and surgery that had an obvious impact on his school work. At the heights of his sickness, his parents doubted his chances of living, but Mauricio persevered. "Being confronted with such a life changing event showed me not only to win or lose, but to value the simple things in life and take advantage of every opportunity." And that he has. He avoided the gang activities in his neighborhood that swept up some of his friends. He focused on school and with consecutive semesters of straight has raised that once struggling GPA to 3.7. He has also thrived in sports winning league titles in both swimming ans soccer at Willow Glen High School.
$1,500 Maria Segura from Willow Glen High School Being taken from her mother and an abusive home and put into foster care was difficult enough, but to be separated from her younger sister and best friend in the process was almost crippling for Maria. She could not sleep at night and worried about where her sister was placed, hoping they would still be going to the same school. Her grades were plummeting with all the tumult in her life, including being shifted to three different foster homes. But sports helped save her as she used tryouts for the tennis team as a way to turn her life around. "I never really imagined how making the tennis team would impact me so dramatically. Making the team made me feel like I had a family that I could trust. I felt like I could really open up to some of the girls. Being on the court helped me forget about all of my problems." They also helped change her focus in the classroom, where she has boosted her GPA to 3.8. "Tennis taught me a valuable lesson that I will not forget. I do not see life as a curse anymore, but as a precious gift that can be taken away from me at any given moment."
$1,500 Stephanie Weed from Archbishop Mitty High School High school can be tough enough for girls so imagine what life must have been like for Stephanie Weed when she started losing her hair as a freshman. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called alopecia, which attacks hair follicles. In rare cases all body hair is lost and she was one of those rare cases. As her blond hair thinned and fell out not only was she depressed, but Stephanie shaved her head and started wearing a wig. As a basketball player she was particularly concerned with losing her wig in action so she used a bandana to try to keep it in place. It didn't work. She is an aggressive player and when she stepped in to take a charge she and her wig hit the floor. While it could have been traumatic, Stephanie was caught in the heat of the battle and she threw the wig to the sideline and continued to play. It was a turning point that allowed her to rid herself of her fears. Now she competes in basketball, water polo and swimming and boasts a 4.27 grade point average.