Westlands Water District announces annual student scholarships

Westlands Water District announces annual student scholarships

Westlands Water District this week announced the recipients of its 2023 Westlands Scholarship. The annual Westlands Scholarship program recognizes and rewards exceptional graduating seniors at area high schools. This year, the District is proud to extend the scholarship to support 17 graduating seniors in achieving their higher-education goals.

Each scholarship recipient was selected based on academic achievements, leadership, contributions to the local community, and future career goals.

“Westlands is honored to support the educational journey for some of our region’s outstanding youth for the 17th year,” said Allison Febbo, General Manager of Westlands Water District. “The District is committed to supporting the next generation who will inevitably leave their mark in our local communities and beyond. We recognize continued education can be expensive, and we hope to help reduce barriers for students in our communities to pursue college and career paths so that they can achieve their dreams and reinvest back into the San Joaquin Valley.” 

The District congratulates the following 17 recipients of the 2023 Westlands Scholarship. Below are excerpts from each recipient’s application when asked about the importance of agriculture and water in the San Joaquin Valley.

Hafeezah Fofana, Future Doctor

Hanford West High School – University of California, Los Angeles

“The importance of agricultural water to California and the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley cannot be overstated. Without it, the region would not be able to produce the vast amounts of crops that it does, which would have a severe impact on the economy. The agricultural industry in California generates over 400,000 jobs and contributes over $50 billion annually to the state's economy. The West Side of the San Joaquin Valley alone generates over $13 billion in agricultural revenue each year.”

Luis Orozco, Future Cinematographer

Coalinga High School –University of California, Santa Barbara

“Throughout the years, I have witnessed the impact of agriculture on my family firsthand. My parents worked tirelessly to support our family, waking up very early in the morning and returning often exhausted from the physical demands of their work. Despite the challenges they faced, my parents remained resilient and dedicated to providing a better life for our family. Agriculture has a profound impact on my life, as it has shaped my family's story and provided us with the financial stability to prosper. Through my experiences, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the people who work in agriculture and the crucial role they play in our society.”

Jenna Nickell, Future Advertising and Promotions Professional

Lemoore Middle College High School – Mississippi State University

“Over the years, the family farm meant more to me than a set of chores. It represented hard work, humility, and years of growing up. The influence of agriculture has made me the person I am today. Those seasons of running a pomegranate stand and communicating with customers have been a big influence on my choice to major in business/marketing in the future. As I continue onto this path, I hope to make my dad proud of the little girl he raised to be independent through our time working and learning in the fields.”

Claudio Silva, Future Doctor

Sierra Pacific High School – California State University, Fresno

“California has been the leading agriculture and dairy state in the last 50 years, and here in Hanford, we are no strangers to that. With the community being mostly agricultural, the distribution of clean water is vital to California’s role in feeding families across the globe.”

Agustin Lopez, Future Music Teacher

Firebaugh High School – Grand Canyon University

“As a descendent of farmers and people that have worked in the fields of the Central Valley, I’ve seen the crops at the worst and the best. Agricultural water is of utmost importance in California and specifically in the West side of the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.”

Chloe Cota, Future Pediatrician

Lemoore Online College Preparatory High – University of California, Davis

“The San Joaquin Valley would not be as successful as it is without the water that fuels its agricultural industry. The industry has allowed the Valley to become a top food producer and supplier locally, nationally, and internationally. The Valley’s economy is dependent on the agricultural industry, which is the number one employer and source of revenue for the region. A reliable water source helps to provide a productive crop yield, which is necessary to maintain food security, people’s jobs, a stable economy, and ultimately ensure that food reaches people’s tables.”

Sophia Reyes Moreno, Future Pediatric Surgeon

Coalinga High School – University of California, Berkeley

“Growing up in an agriculturally dense area has taught me to be grateful for all the hardworking hands that make it possible for me to have a meal at my table every day. It quite frankly has inspired me to work hard in school. From a young age, I’ve thought, if these agricultural workers can go out every day and work in harsh conditions to earn money for their families, with nothing but determination and drive, I can apply the same work ethic to achieve my academic goals.”

 Hailey Couch, Future Choir Conductor

Lemoore High School – Brigham Young University, Utah

“Thousands of our local citizens depend on agriculture as their source of income. It has brought me food on the table, clothes on my back, and healing to my body. The benefits of agriculture are everywhere, and its importance can never be underestimated.”

Manuel Bautista, Future Forensic Pathologist

Firebaugh High School – California State University, Fresno

“Along with the importance of water to grow food is the importance of water to maintain the communities of the west side of the valley. Communities such as Firebaugh, Mendota, and Tranquillity are filled with people that are hardworking and proud to provide food for the world. These communities have a history that is important to maintain. Growing up I would see my community leave early in the morning and return late at night providing the labor for growing and distributing agricultural products. They do these jobs with pride and dignity.”

Brayan Cortes, Future Real Estate Entrepreneur

Mendota High School – California State University, Fresno

“Agriculture has surrounded my life in all of its entirety. Having lived in the Central Valley, more specifically the “Cantaloupe Center of the World,” the industry has brought much to my life. Truly shaping the person I am today.”

Fernanda Natividad Porras, Future Computer Scientist

Coalinga High School – West Hills Community College

“The access to agricultural water keeps the thousands of people reliant on their jobs in California’s agricultural sector at bay. Common occupations such as farm labor would be diminished if agricultural water were to vanish. Higher-up jobs in AG science technology, pest control, irrigation, truck driving, and even common office jobs would also be at risk of extinction without any water. Subsequently, the nation’s economy is upheld by the trade coming from just the west side of the San Joaquin Valley to the entirety of California.”

Ramon Gonzalez, Future Math Professor

Coalinga High School – West Hills Community College, University of California, Santa Barbara

“As I reflect on my upbringing and the impact that agriculture has had on my life, I have seen firsthand the hard work and sacrifices that go into working in the agriculture industry. I am proud of my father for his dedication to providing for our family. As I prepare to pursue higher education and a career in teaching, I am determined to inspire others in my community to pursue their dreams and create a better future for themselves and their families, just as my parents did for me.”

Alexandra Nunez, Future Orthodontist

Mendota High School – University of California, Los Angeles

“Agriculture has been a big part of my life and of my parents, although it has changed stuff it has also provided me and my family with support and an opportunity for a good life.”

Estefania Ibarra, Future Optometrist

Riverdale High School – University of California, Merced

“I can be found as a Roma tomato sprout maturing on a plant in one of the green fields of California’s beautiful central valley. I’ll be taken care of by the hard-working agricultural workers to make sure that I grow to be one of the best tomatoes that’ll ever be out there. My father will be amongst one of those workers both figuratively and literally. The deoxyribose nucleic acid is found within my seeds that will reproduce new Roma tomato plants. Agriculture lives within me, and it will be passed down to my descendants and many future generations.”

Evelyn Duran Vega, Future Elementary Teacher

Tranquility High School – California State University, Fresno

“Growing up, I was always surrounded by agriculture. I have lived my entire life in a rural town surrounded by fields—even my high school is surrounded by fields. Taking walks along those fields in the afternoons brings many memories that are engrained in my heart. My parents, who are field workers, have shown me to appreciate agriculture and the agriculture workers’ hard work. Agriculture has affected my life in several ways and without it I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Elio Ruiz, Future Diesel Mechanic

Mendota High School – Reedley Community College

“Not only is agriculture our main source of income in our family, but for my parents, that was the only option they had in order to give us what we needed in our lives. I also work in the field any chance I get, whether this is on the weekends, days off, or my whole summer vacation. Agriculture has had a huge impact on my life.”

Landon Cardoza, Future Goat Breeder

Hanford High School – College of the Sequoias

“Growing up a ‘city kid’ to parents that are a court reporter and a teacher, a career in the agriculture industry did not seem like it would be in my future. However, it was from my initial FFA goat project that I have found a passion for raising, breeding, and showing goats. I have had some successes in the livestock industry with my show goats and have had some opportunities to work with some local goat breeders to help them while also learning new skills.”

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