Determination was the word of the day as Minerva Club Trust Fund members awarded scholarships to 13 students from the seven high schools in the Santa Maria Valley during a ceremony Sunday. Dr. Ken Parker was the guest speaker.

“I tried to sum up in one word as I drove here today, ‘What is the one thing that we are here about today?’ It seems to me the word is determination,” Ken said.

He told the students they were determined to meet their goals. The members of the Minerva Club, their families and other members in their lives were determined to help.

Ken put himself through college while working at Disneyland. He was the Big Bad Wolf, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other Disney characters.

“I think it’s indeed the things we don’t necessarily control that affect us,” Ken said. “All these things I did at that job I couldn’t have done if a caring parent hadn’t said to me one day in fifth grade, ‘Sing. Sing.’”

“In the fifth grade, I had a terrible speech problem that really haunted me," he explained. "One day, a mother of one of the other kids had heard me just read something in front of the class … and her words were ‘Sing. Try singing.’ And then she sat me down and explained what that meant. Those of you who’ve studied speech know that someone who has a speech problem can sing. I decided I was going to sing.”

Ken went on to achieve a great many things, including becoming an assistant and associate superintendent of schools, facilitating the development and implementation of Orcutt Academy, advising local school districts and others in China and Japan, and serving as a teacher, counselor and principal.

Ann Walsh is the president of the fund.

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“The tradition of recognizing high school honor students began in 1917 when the Minerva Club honored all 49 honor students at Santa Maria HS at a luncheon,” Ann said.

The first scholarships, totaling $500, were awarded in 1952. Funds were raised by sale of the club’s cookbook, sale of strawberry shortcakes at the county fair and personal contributions.

This year, each of the graduating seniors will receive a $1,500 scholarship. They are funded by a $266,000 bequest from the Maxine and Burns Rick Estate. The club has awarded more than $353,000 since 1952.

The high school award winners were Daisy Ortiz-Alfaro, Delta; Taylor Ann Wall, Marisol Zepeda and Millicent Angulo, Righetti; Adela Lopez, Arley Ramirez and Sterling Snow, Santa Maria. Other winners were Jonah Mau, Alexis Caballero and Kayla Marshall, Pioneer Valley; Jordan Allen, Valley Christian Academy; Sydney Ederer, St. Joseph; and Jasmin Sanchez, Orcutt Academy.

The students expressed their appreciation for receiving the scholarships and the help they have had to get where they are. They have been volunteers at their schools and in the community, have been involved in sports, have high academic achievements, have worked jobs to help support their families and have plans to go to colleges throughout the state.

Their planned majors vary, including archaeology, criminal justice, mechanical engineering, environmental studies, business administration, biology and child development.

Their goals include being a highway patrol officer, a physician, a psychiatrist, a neurologist, working with the Department of Defense, the Peace Corps and with other countries, finding a cure for cancer and creating innovative technologies.

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Jeanne Sparks is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. Send story ideas to jeanne@jeannesparks.com.