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Azusa Scholars: Building Leaders for Tomorrow

by Ahmed Sedam '11

The Nancy Moore/Celebrate Azusa Citizens Scholarship Program, established in 2000, was founded to help Azusa citizens who want to stay in local area and attend Azusa Pacific University.

The program began when then mayor pro-tem Joseph Rocha approached APU administrators establish a scholarship for seniors graduating from the Azusa high schools. Two years later, his dream was a reality, and the Nancy Moore/Celebrate Azusa Citizens Scholarship Program was established.

In 2007-08 the program was revamped and placed under the Office of Ministry and Service (MAS). Matt Visser, MAS director along with associate director Jenny Elsey '01 now oversee the program.

"We thought the Azusa Scholars Program was a great opportunity for our office," said Visser. "Since our office is so invested in the city Azusa, it was a perfect way to continue to build the relationship, while developing students who can strengthen the community."

In its 10-year history, 57 students have been accepted, with 19 students graduating. Recent graduate Ever Valenciano '10, spent his four years at APU as an Azusa Scholar and was deeply impacted by his experience.

"The scholarship program is just amazing," said Valenciano. "I don't know how I would have made it through college without it. The encouragement and relationships that the program offers can't be replaced."

In 2008, the program decided to go a new route, making leadership the focal point of the program. MAS implemented a leadership forum once a semester and assigned a mentor to each scholar, to assist scholars through their journey at APU. The one-on-one mentoring program offers a way to help students grow, by having someone in place who can encourage and help them throughout the year.

"It is important for the students to have a one-on-one relationship with someone who believes in them," said Visser. "Also, since most of our scholars commute, it gives our students someone on campus they can trust and go to."

The Azusa Scholars program has created a tight-knit community for the students in the program.

"I was really grateful to be accepted into the program," said current scholar Cecilia Camarena '12. "I like it because there is a sense of community that unites the two rival high schools. It gives us a small group of people to come back to in tough times."

Recent Azusa High School graduate Priscilla Ulloa '14 will be a freshman at APU this fall and is looking forward to how the Azusa Scholars Program will impact her life and time in college.

"I'm excited that I have an opportunity to be part of such an amazing and beneficial program," said Ulloa. "I think it will have a positive impact on my life and will bring me closer to God, which is all I really want."