"Service to the Community" was the theme for Saturday's 22nd Annual Citizen of the Year Luncheon, hosted by the Ohlone Community College Foundation.
The event was held to celebrate students who received scholarships this spring for their studies at Ohlone and to thank several companies, groups and individuals who donated funds to make the scholarship program possible.
The six Rotary Clubs in the Tri-Cities—, Fremont, Niles, Mission San Jose, F.U.N. Sunset and Warm Springs Sunrise—were also honored for their dedication to service.
About 300 people attended Saturday's rainy day luncheon, held at .
Local officials attended, along withl Rotarians, students and representatives of sponsoring groups.
The guest list included Newark council members Alan Nagy and Ana Apodaca, Union City Mayor Mark Green, New Haven School Board Trustee Sarabjit Cheema, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman and Sheila Jordan, Alameda County superintendent of schools.
Students Receive Financial Assistance
Newark Mayor David Smith, who emceed the event, said that in the past three years the college's scholarship offerings for students have grown from $15,000-$20,000 to this year's $135,000.
The foundation, where Smith serves as executive director, asks sponsors to donate $500 to cover the cost of one student's semester tuition at the college.
Smith said this year's HOSTS recipients have faced many obstacles in their lives.
"But they have overcome challenges, and the best part is I get to read about their hopes and their dreams," Smith told the audience. "And folks, I have to tell you, our future is in good hands."
This year's 41 sponsors handed out 81 scholarships.
The sponsors included Cargill Salt, Nelnet, Waste Management, Alameda County District 1 Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Fremont Councilmember Bill Harrison and his wife Jennifer Toy Harrison (who serves on the board ofUnion Sanitary District) Ohlone staff members, Newark Rotary Club and the Fremont-based Citizens for Better Community.
Sponsors for the college's Citizen of the Year event also gave money for scholarships to benefit an additional 23 students.
These awards don't include the 108 recipients of other scholarships, from either the Ohlone Foundation itself or other endowed scholarship funds.
Students’ Share Their Experiences
Amish Vijay Dave, who received a $500 HOSTS scholarship from Bill and Jennifer Harrison, both Ohlone graduates, spoke on behalf of the students.
"When I was in high school, going to Ohlone pretty much was the last thing I thought I would be doing," Dave said.
But when his father lost his job, his family no longer had the money to send him to a four-year university. After weighing his options, Dave enrolled at Ohlone.
Now he says, "It's probably the best decision I ever made."
Even at a community college, scholarships help students like him focus on their studies and service activities, he said.
"I no longer had to worry about picking my job or my school," he said.
Dave, 20, is a full-time political science major at Ohlone who serves on Fremont's Human Relations Commission and the community advisory engagement board for the Family Resource Center. He also founded a chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Ohlone, has a near-perfect GPA and plans on attending law school in the future.
Graduating valedictorian Angeline Joyce Chew also received a scholarship this year for her academic efforts.
Chew, who graduated from Ohlone in May with a 4.0 GPA and an associate's degree in social science, will attend California State University, East Bay to pursue a degree in psychology.
"I hope to give back to society," said Chew, who plans to work as a school counselor or in a child care center.
Chew, a Fremont resident, came to Ohlone after leaving behind a management career in Singapore, and has balanced her studies while raising three children.
While it's a lot of hard work, Chew says the momentum of staying busy "makes me work even harder."
She also credits Ohlone psychology professor Sarah Cooper with helping her find her passion for working with children.
"She gave all the enthusiasm to pursue this dream of mine," she said.
Saturday's event also singled out student Tiffany Hoang, who, in addition to receiving a $500 scholarship from the Ohlone Foundation, was chosen in the $1,000 scholarship drawing on behalf of the Rotary Clubs.
The announcement came as a surprise to Hoang, 20, of Union City.
"It's kind of a blessing," she said. "It's a signal for me to keep going and working."
Hoang, who has studied dance and photography in addition tofilling her general education requirements, said she plans to transfer to UC Berkeley in the fall.
Tri-Cities Rotarians share "Citizen of the Year" award
Ohlone College President Gari Browning said the six Rotary clubs were honored because of their community service projects and fundraising efforts.
"Thousands of area residents have been served as a result of these six Rotary Clubs," she said. "Their track record of community service has been exemplary."
Representatives from the offices of State Senator Ellen Corbett, Assemblyman Bob Wickowski and County Supervisor Scott Haggerty presented certificates to the clubs.
Robert Douglass, who chairs the Ohlone College Foundation Board of Directors, said the names of several local Rotarians were mentioned when members were brainstorming who to honor this year.
Finally the group decided to recognize the members of all six local groups, since their membership area represents "a perfect (geographical) fit with the Ohlone district."