Scholars embody excellence

Courtesy of Matt Gush

The aspiring nurse, the enduring athlete, the math whiz, the theatre arts aficionado and the musical genius all have something in common: They comprise a diverse group with excellence in academics and community service as part of the President’s Scholars Program.

Students, strictly incoming freshmen and military veterans who are transfer students, are the foundation of the program.

Established in 1979, the President’s Scholars Program is the oldest scholar program in the CSU, founded by President Don Shields.

Shields had an interest in interacting with students and helping them pave the way to become leaders of the school and their community by establishing relationships and adhering to the principle of giving back.

The program provides a scholarship for incoming freshman students, which includes full tuition and fees, a book stipend, a laptop computer for each scholar’s personal use throughout the duration of the program, priority registration, complimentary parking permits, as well as other opportunities.

As a requirement, each individual in the program must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and above.

To make sure this academic requirement is met, students meet on a weekly basis, attend academic advising and are offered tutoring and mentorship.

Their director of three years, Deanna Merino-Contino, is thrilled to be a part of this program.

Contino said the true benefit of the program lies within the students who take it upon themselves to create an experience beyond the classroom studies.

“The benefits are the opportunity to really take advantage of your college experience, to get connected with faculty and meet the leadership on campus,” Merino-Contino said.

The President’s Scholars Program is funded by donations.

“People who really believe in the program donate, as well as alumni, and our faculty and staff,”  Merino-Contino said.

Each year hundreds of incoming freshman submit their applications in a highly competitive application process which begins in October and ends the second week of January.

Applicants must have a minimum of a 3.75 GPA, above average Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and demonstrate contributions to community service in high school.

The candidates are selected for review based on their high school academics, extracurricular involvement and communication skills, by a 20-member committee. The highest ranked are then reviewed and interviewed.

Final acceptance is based on three components: the President’s Scholars application index, application evaluation and personal interview.

Each year the amount of students that are accepted into the program varies.

The dependability on donations to fund the program determines the budget and also how many students they can take.

“We have a current number of 66 students in the program and we were able to bring in 17 (students) this year; 14 freshmen and 3 transfer veterans,” Contino said.

Kaylin Deeth, 18, freshman kinesiology major, admires the help and friendship the President’s Scholar Program has offered her.

“I have two mentors who are older students and they help me greatly. Most importantly, I’ve made friends and I’m not alone,” Deeth said. “Our freshman class is really unique because we have been hanging out more than any of the other classes before us. We’ve actually gone to dinners and planned out stuff every week and we love hanging out.”

Not only does the program encourage their scholars to be academically involved but also encourages them to be involved in other clubs and organizations to expand their college experience.

Freshman business major Chris Harraka is one of many in the scholars program that is actively involved in other clubs on campus.

“I’m currently involved in the American Marketing Association, the Business Honors Program, the University Honors Program, the Business Honors Society and I’m currently rushing for the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity,” Harraka said.

President and four-year veteran of the President’s Scholars Program Reina Acosta said her role as president of the program is rewarding.

“It is what you make it. If you don’t participate and you don’t come to things and don’t try it’ll just be money to you,” Acosta said. “You’re only hurting yourself by not getting involved. The program is rich in opportunities.”

About Lauren Torres

Lauren is a staff writer on the Daily Titan. Serving as a staff writer of the Daily Titan is a requirement for all Journalism majors.