The second annual Earl Woods Scholarship Program (EWSP) Winter Workshop closed 2011 with warm laughter and bittersweet tears. Scholars who attended reached record numbers, 54 out of 55 to be exact, many of whom flew across the country from places like Washington, D.C., Connecticut and Massachusetts to once again meet with their fellow scholars and mentors in sunny Anaheim, Calif.
The purpose of the Winter Workshop is to provide scholars with helpful working sessions, to congratulate the graduating class and to bring everyone together for one last time before the start of the new year.
In 2012, the Scholarship Program will proudly send off another handful of graduates. Congratulations to Susana Lagarde (CSUF), Steven Pham (UCLA), Jenny Nguyen (UCLA), Evan Chang (Occidental), Grace Lee (UC Berkeley), Vladimir Casseus (Holy Cross) and Vina Vo (USC), who will be graduating this spring. Special congratulations to Fatou Bekeyi, who graduated a semester early from the University of Idaho. Good job, Fatou!
This year's Winter Workshop was a great success. Scholars, mentors, presenters and staff members connected in ways that were not only professional, but also characteristic of the holiday spirit. In addition to the much needed academic workshops, highlights of the two-day event included a delicious luncheon at the Anaheim White House Restaurant, fun ice-breaker activities, mock interviews and an industry forum panel where scholars heard from professionals from a variety of fields.
Every professional on the panel had a different story to tell. Martha G. Sosa-Johnson, M.D., came to speak to scholars about her experiences helping people at UC Irvine Healthcare. She knew that she wanted to be a doctor ever since she was a little girl.
However, journalist Mark Lamport-Stokes from Reuters had an entirely different story. He graduated with an English degree in South Africa and had no idea what he wanted to do. He told scholars that he "fell into" journalism and has stuck with it ever since.
Larry Webb, an executive in the homebuilding industry at The New Home Company, said that he loves his job because building homes and communities for people is a "noble" thing to do.
Maria del Pilar O'Cadiz is a research specialist at UCI and encouraged scholars interested in research to apply for grad school.
Ernst and Young Accounting Partner Deborah Nolan gave a shout-out to all the girls in the crowd, telling them to follow their professional dreams.
"It is very possible for a woman to raise a family as well as be professionally successful," she said.
Boeing engineer Jay Messner revealed to the techies in the audience that there are many opportunities in the field of aerospace.
Although the panelists all had very different professional backgrounds, they all shared the same message: success comes in doing what you love.
However, one of the best highlights was the social etiquette workshop, held by scholarship mentor Becky McLaughlin and her daughter Ali. Scholars laughed and giggled as they fumbled their way through an array of forks and knives at the posh White House Restaurant. Everyone nervously enjoyed a delicious three-course meal, trying hard to remember which way to pass the bread. It was a hysterical but valuable experience.
The mother-daughter duo taught the scholars useful tricks to remember: which side of the plate the bread and drinks should be on, how to hold a knife and fork properly, how to be respectful when eating soup, and they also told the young men that women should always be first. Not a single girl complained at this ruling.
On Thursday, scholars, mentors, parents and TWF staff all gathered at the Tiger Woods Learning Center for the graduation luncheon, for an amazing total of 140 guests. Attendees could not help but comment on how much the Earl Woods Scholarship Program has grown since accepting its first class of scholars back in 2007. Even TWF CEO and President Greg McLaughlin said in his opening speech, "We had no idea what we were creating when the program first started."
Looking around the room, it was amazing to see how successful and alive the program has become since then. Here's to many more years of positively impacting the lives of so many bright young people!