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In General on June 11, 2014 - 11:31 am

West Coast Banquet at Birch Aquarium of UC San Diego

outdoors“It never rains in southern California”….the familiar lyrics were true again, as scholars, their families, educators and supporters parked in the lot of the Birch Aquarium of the University of San Diego, in La Jolla in the brilliant sunshine. Outside in two, two-foot high twelve-foot diameter bricked pools are life-sized dolphin statues standing on their flippers in front of three-level tiered walls, welcoming visitors to take a rest near the soothing sounds of the water.

guests outside

From the open plaza in front of the entrance you notice the pair of 20’ tall orange –toned seahorses painted on the 30-foot-high windows on either side of the doors. Just inside the doors of this glass pavilion, various subspecies of life-sized sharks are suspended from the two-story ceiling. Marine-aqua tablecloths complement the sea-themed atmosphere, and at one end of the room a ten-foot diameter tank filled with eight-inch-long sardines, all swimming madly in the same direction around the inside of the glass, tight on each others’ fins is an intriguing exhibit. Attendees even had the opportunity to view other areas of the aquarium before the event started!


candy speakingAfter passing through the glass pavilion to the outdoor Preuss Tide-pool Plaza overlooking the ocean, you got the full impact of the area…with balmy breezes caressing your face, the sun glistening on the waves to delight your eyes and the tiered waterfall softly splashing into the lower reservoirs populated with contented starfish behind glass viewing windows.

Candy Carson opened the program with an easily warm welcome (especially in 80 degree La Jolla!) announcing the 46 new 2014 scholars and 29 repeat scholars that would be celebrated that evening. She continued with the national statistics of 510 new scholars and 704 repeaters around the country being feted at eight other ceremonies across the U.S. this year.

The Pledge of Allegiance was confidently enunciated by 2014 scholar Ashna Mangla, a tenth grade student at Independence High School of San Jose, CA. The great debater also is a dedicated volunteer.

Following the pledge, Mrs. Carson explained the impetus behind Carson Scholars and gave a short summary of the fund’s 18-year history.

In preparation for the meal, Kassey Perez-Mendez, a 2014 scholar, gave the blessing. As an eighth-grader at Saint Anne School in Santa Ana, California, she received the outstanding student of the month award and is also the recipient of the Luevano Foundation Scholarship.

pianistA piano solo entitled Danza (by Nancy Lau) was then performed by Sebastian Reyes, an eleventh-grader who attends Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. He recently completed his certificate of Merit, testing level six for the piano. During the buffet dinner, Sebastian continued with stylishly soft accompaniment.

Mrs. Carson soon returned to introduce Lawrence Henry, Senior Vice President and a regional executive for Union Bank. Union Bank has been a West Coast Partner of Carson Scholars since the beginning, and has shared in past Carson Scholar celebrations in the area. Several of his colleagues were attending in support.

Union Bank rep speaking

After Mr. Henry commented on the occasion he introduced the scholar alumni speaker. Antar Tichavakunda, a four-time Carson Scholar Award recipient, graduated from Brown University in 2011. He then taught at a KIPP school in DC while earning a Masters of Education degree from George Mason University, researching financial literacy and achievement of black males in kindergarten through twelfth grade. His challenge to the audience to not only do their best but to give back as well, clearly resonates with the philosophies of the Carson’s and the principal California sponsor, Union Bank.

Mr. Henry confirmed this with the fact that last year Union Bank broke their all-time record in volunteer hours with 78,000, an increase of 14% over 2012! This is evidence of the Bank’s dream of helping to better educate young people through their financial literacy education programs. And just last week the bank launched a new mobile children’s app for smart phones called Yuby, to teach young people about responsible spending, saving, budgeting and charitable giving. They even sponsored a children’s book, “What a Bank Can Do” which has been widely distributed in local educational facilities.

Recognizing their joint passion for supporting education, Mr. Henry then welcomed Dr. Carson to the rostrum.

Dr. Carson speakingThe gratitude Dr. Carson expressed towards all who committed themselves to making the evening possible, from the hard-working students and encouraging parents and dedicated educators, to the visionary donors, volunteers, and staff was very heartfelt and sincere. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and with the combined efforts of all of these dedicated individuals, he claimed that our nation’s future would be in good hands with these young people leading out.

Dr. Carson also stated that each year in addition to the student scholars, the Carson Scholars Fund also places adults who have achieved success in their careers in front of the scholars as positive role models. A video highlighting several of these successful honorees was then shown.

In Dr. Carson’s remarks he pointed out special supporters including Alameda Land Company, Mr. John W. Amerman, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ferrreira and the George C. Dodge Foundation, Mr. Richard Herron and the Herron Insurance Agency, Inc., Mr. Michael Morga, Mr. Carl Pescio and the Pescio Family Endowment, Mrs. Darcy Rook and CPT Jared Rook, Ms. Beth LeFriant and the Tucker Family Foundation and adult role models in attendance whose major accomplishments in their careers and philanthropy had a huge impact on society….people like Lee Warner, whose finance company has locations from shore to shore, and is chairman of the scholars board; Dick Knowlton who for over a decade, capably led Hormel Foods to its current success and Tony Nobles who has invented many of the surgical tools utilized in today’s operating rooms. All of them had come from less than optimal backgrounds like Dr. Carson, but were able to achieve success with the opportunities that are here in America. Considering them to be future leaders of America, Dr. Carson charged the scholars to continue to develop themselves, to be watchful, and to have the courage to speak out and work for the betterment of the country. When you see something happening, have the courage to speak out against it and work towards a good solution as our founding fathers would have done. For although we are the land of the free and the home of the brave….you cannot be free if you are not brave.

Candy returned and enjoyed the honor of announcing the new scholars and their achievements while they were escorted forward by Union Bank representatives. As scholars crossed the platform, Dr. Carson & Mr. Henry had the distinct pleasure of presenting them with their medals and certificates.

Dr. Carson with scholar

The Carson Scholars’ tradition of having the scholars let their lights shine by waving glow sticks as “The Impossible Dream” played over the loudspeakers brought the evening to a close.


We simply must thank Joanne Curran, Tiffany Green, Ellen Crafts, everyone at Union Bank and a sincere thanks to the Stecher Family for their generosity of time, talents and effort!

For more pictures, check out our Facebook album, here.

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