Tamara was a student at Contra Costa College when she received an undergraduate scholarship from Kennedy-King in 2009. She later received a Bachelor's Degree in biotechnology from UC Davis in 2011.
Upon graduation, she affiliated with Children's Hospital in Oakland, working with an infectious disease physician. She went on to work for a biotech firm where she conducted research studies in immune oncology.
In 2020, Tamara was awarded a graduate scholarship from Kennedy-King and today is currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine, where she expects to receive her MD in 2024 and her goal is the practice rural medicine in the Central Valley of California.
"Californians living in these areas lack access to care for chronic conditions because the rural areas area extremely underserved. For me, coming back to serve these communities is my way of coming home and giving back."
It Started with an Application
I don’t recall how I became aware of the scholarship opportunity but my guess is that I was alerted by a professor who was also the director of the Honors Society, which I was also a part of at LMC. This professor constantly kept us informed of potential opportunities. In retrospect, the most vivid aspect was the application process. More specifically, the interview and how nervous I was. I will say that despite all the nerves, I remember feeling appreciated and respected for my hard work and accomplishments. Being notified that I received the Kennedy-King scholarship was surreal, to say the least. I still talk about it today and tell people about the dinner. It’s one of my favorite memories even today.
Mentorship through Kennedy-King
I still talk with John McPeak occasionally. I naturally gravitated toward him for guidance. Years after receiving the scholarship, I started chatting with him after undergrad at UC Davis.
Advice on the Application Process
In my experience, apply and try your best. The reward is worth it, and you don’t want to regret not trying. The moments leading up to and during the interview were anxiety provoking, but I’m glad I decided to go for it. I realized that those around me support me and only want me to succeed.
The Financial Impact of my Scholarship
I used my scholarship to complete my undergraduate work in psychology at UC Davis. I graduated on time, which I could not have done if I had to work part-time to pay for school. I did well in school and was accepted to graduate school. I obtained my masters in a few years and my doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Where Are You Now? I am now a licensed Psychologist employed at a state psychiatric hospital in Minnesota. My specialty is individuals the State of Minnesota deemed insane at the time of their crime. By the time individuals arrive at the hospital, they have an extensive history of experiencing symptoms of a severe and persistent mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Those psychotic symptoms impact judgment resulting in numerous legal charges, and have demonstrated danger to society. Patients are typically under an indefinite commitment as mentally ill and dangerous to the public. With some luck, their mental illness symptoms resolve enough to allow them to become independent and adjusted individuals.
Meet Mariely Guevera Lopez, a 2020 Kennedy-King scholarship recipient and a California State University, Sacramento, graduate. According to Mariely, the Kennedy-King scholarship meant more than the opportunity to transfer from DVC to a 4-year institution; it meant "hope and opportunity toward a better future for myself, my son, and my family."
It Started with An Application
While I was at Los Medanos College (LMC), I joined the freshly founded MESA (Math Engineering Science Achieve) program to get extra support with my science classes. As I became more serious with school I realized that I would need help paying for university fees. MESA had a list of scholarships for students and right at the top of the list was Kennedy-King. It was one of the few scholarships I applied to that required a personal statement. To be honest, I never thought I would be selected but I remember putting in a lot of work in my paper trying to capture who I was, and why I thought I should be awarded the scholarship.
The Financial Impact
Getting the scholarship was a big game changer for me. It helped cover a huge part of my undergraduate fees while giving me a big confidence boost when I started my university journey. My parents weren't in a position to help me financially. Without the Scholarship, I would have had a difficult time paying for college. The payment of a significant portion of my tuition made it possible to pay for me to cover books and living expenses. The Kennedy-King scholarship helped cover those additional costs, which was extremely helpful! It made it that much easier to focus more of my attention on my classes. It acted as extra motivation to work my butt off!
My scholarship funds helped me minimize how much loan money I needed to pull out during undergrad, reducing my overall loan burden during graduate school. I didn't fully grasp how much that helped me until I saw how much more expensive graduate school was compared to undergrad.
The Help of a Kennedy-King Mentor
I was paired up with Dr. Scott-Sanders, aka Dr. D. She was awesome! Dr. D was personable and always gave me sound advice. Everything about the scholarship process was completely foreign to me. She made it much easier to navigate the financial handshaking between the Kennedy-King foundation and Cal Poly. I would be remiss to not mention Keiko Kobayashi as she did most of the logistical work behind the scenes to ensure I had funds available before the start of my school quarters.
For Those Thinking About Applying for a Kennedy-King Scholarship
For those of you thinking about applying for the scholarship while simultaneously convincing yourselves not to apply because you think you won't get it, I'd say to you, apply anyways! Kennedy-King has an illustrious history of providing burgeoning young adults in underserved communities with financial assistance. Take advantage of it! I'm the son of Nigerian immigrants. I was filled with so much self-doubt and hesitation. I remember thinking to myself, “pssh, they'd never pick me." However, if you can't bet on yourself, how can you expect anyone else to? If you don't give yourself a chance, the probability of success will always be zero. Don't shy away from opportunities like the one Kennedy-King has to offer! Be an advocate for yourself so others can help advocate for you.
Where Are You Now?
I currently work as a Mechatronics Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd end up there. Back then, I thought I'd be making medical devices once I graduated, not working on things going to space. Kennedy-King literally gave me the confidence to reach for the stars and beyond, as cliché as that might sound. The entire process helped show me that there are people out there ready to invest in my future if I was able to invest in myself. Life has a strange way of giving you lemons when you were all set to make orange juice. The Kennedy-King foundation helped fuel my educational curiosity and my professional ambition. It made a world of difference in how I viewed myself as a student and what I thought I could accomplish, for that, I will forever be grateful.
Deminika Spears, 2008 Undergraduate Scholar, 2015 Graduate Scholarship, 2018 Frank & Kathy Gouveia Scholar
Christopher MacAlpine-Belton, 2007 Wells Fargo Scholar, 2010 Graduate Scholar
Malena Herrera first became aware of the Kennedy-King Memorial College Scholarship Fund when she accompanied her family to the scholarship award ceremony to celebrate her brother's award. She was awed by the caliber of recipients and speakers, "It was like the Oscars of education." She knew that receiving the scholarship meant she too "could attend college without financial strain. I could focus on school and fully immerse myself in college life and not have to work in between classes."
Herrera applied and earned her scholarship in 2013 and graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Psychology in 2015. She currently holds the title of Senior Events Specialist and Marketing Campaigns at Kintone.
She credits her Kennedy-King mentor, Keiko Kobayashi, with guidance during the application process. Upon receiving the scholarship, Keiko provided repeated check-ins to ensure that Malena was doing well academically. "The whole process was seamless," said Malena, "and I felt supported every step. " Describing the people behind the Kennedy-King Foundation as a family, Malena refers to them as " your cheerleaders, and they want you to succeed and genuinely believe that you can make a difference."
Malena will never forget her award ceremony. "So much so that almost ten years later, I still remember that day vividly; seeing my picture and story on the screen and my proud parents beaming at me is something I'll never forget." The icing on the cake for Malena was graduating debt-free and enjoying a successful career! She mentioned that one day, she and her brother hope to give back to Kennedy-King by sponsoring a scholarship of their own.
Meet Zilose Lyons, 2007 and 2009 Kennedy-King Scholarship recipient and now Program Administrator at the California-China Climate Institute, University of California, Berkeley
Meet Daniel Ponce, a 2007 Kennedy-King scholarship recipient and our newest board member!
Fernanda Lopez, 2010 Scholarship recipient and graduate of San Jose State University
Robin Lopez, 2012 Phillips 66 Undergraduate Scholar,
2017 Perfecto Villarreal Graduate Scholar