Graduating seniors Estrella Torres of Pojoaque Valley High School, Zachary Ginn of Taos High School and Leina Gries of Santa Fe’s Desert Academy will head to college in the fall with an extra $5,000 per year in scholarships provided by the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF).
These three recipients of the top-level $20,000 Gold Scholarship are among the 116 students in Northern New Mexico receiving 122 awards totaling $773,500 in support of four-year degrees.
Torres will attend Dartmouth College and study chemical engineering with the goal of creating a more efficient fuel source.
Torres is working at the Laboratory as an intern with the materials science division.
“It’s very exciting—for the first time ever I am using science to make a difference,” she said. “It’s this type of work that drives me to one day earn a doctorate in chemical engineering and then come back to work for the Laboratory, where I can continue to make a difference to my community and to society.”
Ginn will attend Colorado College and major in organismal biology and ecology to study the diverse impacts of climate change on ecosystems worldwide.
“I want to make a difference when it comes to the Earth’s ecology, particularly the intricate connections between all living organisms,” he says. “I can definitely see myself coming back to New Mexico, where I think I could make a difference when it comes to effective water use and successfully forest ecology.”
Gries will attend Pomona College with plans to double major in computer science and biology to develop predictive algorithms.
Mike Ammerman, scholarship program manager for the LANL Foundation, which manages and scholarship program, is clear what unites all the LANL Scholars.
“This community of scholars represents the next generation of emerging leaders and innovative thinkers from Northern New Mexico who share a commitment to serve as role models in their families, schools and communities and make a positive impact in the world,” he said.
All winners met the rigorous academic and merit-based requirements and live in the seven Northern New Mexico counties surrounding the Laboratory: Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos.
Scholarships support graduating high school seniors and some current undergraduate students in pursuit of a four-year degree in any field of study. Certain award levels are determined by additional qualifications including the pursuit of degrees in specific fields of study, first-generation college students, Native American students, and outstanding leadership.
Awards are primarily based on academic merit, with financial need included as one of the additional evaluation factors. Of this year’s scholarship recipients, 41 percent reported an annual family income of less than $50,000.
The Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund began in 1998 and is largely funded by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees, contractors and retirees.
Donations also come from community members and local businesses that value education and economic development in the region. This year, Laboratory operator Triad National Security, LLC, is committed to contributing $285,000 to the fund, with an emphasis on needs-based scholarships.
In addition to financial support, LANL Scholars are encouraged and validated by the Laboratory and Northern New Mexico communities. Many winners are also given the opportunity to work in summer internships with a mentor at the Lab.
Scholarship winners were honored during an awards reception with family and invited guests May 5 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. More than 80 Scholars and 350 total guests took part in the celebration that included remarks from Laboratory Director Thom Mason.