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Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society announces 2024 scholarship winners

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On Wednesday, June 5, members of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society met at Tony Jacal’s to celebrate the three young people who will receive the Historical Society’s 2024 college scholarships. The Historical Society recently announced that its winners this year are Jasmin Benitez, Janidy Vergara, and Kaede Ward.

About the scholarship winners:

Jasmin Benetiz

Jasmin Benetiz had to fight for the right to take advanced classes at Torrey Pines. “It started in second grade when I was tested for learning disabilities and provided an Individualized Education Plan (IEP),” she shared in her application essay. “I struggled to keep up with my classmates. What they could do in a limited time always took me longer.”

However, by middle school, she was earning mostly As and Bs and never used any of the accommodations provided in her IEP. As a freshman, she signed up for English Honors, but was blocked by her case manager. “I realized that if I wanted to take advanced classes, I had to prove. . . that I could handle them. I wanted the opportunity to challenge myself because I knew I could persevere.”

Persevere she did, finally testing out of her IEP in her sophomore year, and going on to earn a 3.67 weighted GPA.

“She has challenged herself by taking some of the most rigorous courses we offer,” noted Rosa Velazquez, a Torrey Pines math teacher and coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which is designed to assist first-generation, low-income and other underserved students.

Jasmin will be the first in her family to attend a four-year university. “Overcoming the stereotype of a Latino student was one of my greatest accomplishments,” Jasmin told the Historical Society. “It made me feel capable of achieving anything I set my mind to.” She has decided to attend Cal State University San Marcos.

Janidy Vergara

Janidy Vergara carried a 3.42 weighted GPA at San Dieguito Academy and has decided to attend Cal State University San Marcos.

Janidy credits her academic success in large part to Casa de Amistad. Since 2001, Casa has provided tutoring, mentoring and enrichment support to underserved — often immigrant — families in North County. That’s why she gives back to the organization by volunteering as a mentor and tutor to kindergarten and third grade students.

“My parents immigrated to the United States, this beautiful country, so my brother and I can have opportunities they never had,” she told the SBC&HS. “Because I am bilingual, I am able to see the world from a different perspective . . . I can help families that come from similar backgrounds just like my own family.” Through her involvement with Casa, she was able to participate in Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp and the Model United Nations.

Janidy also has participated in The Changers organization since middle school. The teen group helps spread awareness about the negative effects of drugs, alcohol and tobacco — including vaping. She is an altar server at Saint Leo Catholic Church, where she also participates in Youth Group Leadership.

Janidy’s dream is to achieve a masters in nursing after earning an undergraduate degree in biology. “This scholarship . . . would help me pay for my dreams,” she said. “To change the world one child at a time, one family at a time, and this results in a community being transformed for the better.”

Kaede Ward

Kaede Ward graduated from Sunset High School in Encinitas with a 3.84 Grade Point Average (GPA) and twice received Sunset Standout awards for academic excellence. He attended Torrey Pines High School in 2020 through 2022. Kaede was accepted to the honors program at the University of Hawaii, but has decided to stay in town to attend Mira Costa Community College.

An avid surfer, Kaede has served as Torrey Pines Surf team captain and earned two Cal State Games silver medals for surfing, as well as two Sneedside Memorial invitations — a local surfing honor. He has volunteered with Paddle for Peace and Project Moonlight, which provides surfing lessons to children with special needs and who face barriers to entry for the sport.

In addition to currently working nearly full time at Chipotle Del Mar, where he is in training for kitchen and store manager, Kaede volunteers on weekends for Solana Beach Backpacks for Kids, which distributes food to local families in need. He has also been recognized for outstanding participation as a volunteer with Coast Academy’s Best Buddies program, which pairs young adults with peers who have intellectual and/or physical disabilities.

“Applying to volunteer felt like a natural transition after . . . working with Project Moonlight,” Kaede told the SBC&HS in answer to the application query: “What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?”

He worked out a white-board communication strategy with Jake, who has autism and was easily overstimulated by conversation. And Kaede reported his “sheer delight” when Landon, a 22-year-old Buddy who had been confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy, stood and used a walker to receive his diploma. “As I write this essay, I realize that maybe I’m answering a different question: What has your community done to make you a better person.” —Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society news release
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