Stories

Derek Brangham
Mathew Freeman
Allison Reitmayer
Kenna Arana
Sarah Gomez
Candace Johnson

 

DEREK BRANGHAM

 
Derek Brangham
Graduate 2012
Cal Poly
2007 Scholarship Recipient
 
As a high school senior the financial burden of college can seem daunting, but thanks to non-profits such as the Jean Perkins Foundation that burden can be alleviated. The LAFD scholarship had a great impact on my college experience at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. With the financial assistance of the LAFDSF, I was able to devote my time to school and also get involved in campus life extra-curriculars (which can greatly enrich the college experience). I was able to become involved in Greek life (serving multiple terms as our Philanthropy Chair and eventually chapter President), be selected for the Cal Poly Open House Committee (serving as Event Chairman), and join Poly Reps (the university ambassador group).

 

I graduated in June of 2012 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering; the “learn-by-doing” philosophy of Cal Poly prepared me to jump right into a profession where “the rubber meets the road” for engineering. Since graduation I went on to work for Occidental Oil & Gas/California Resources Corporation in the Technical Services team as an Operations Improvement Engineer. While there I pursued and obtained my license as a Professional Engineer. After nearly 5 years I relocated to the bay area and began my career at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, being hired on as a Mechanical Technology Field Engineer. I currently reside in the East Bay with my lovely wife (who I met while at Cal Poly) and our beautiful daughter.

 

 

MATHEW FREEMAN

 
Mathew Freeman
Graduate 2014
Penn State University
2010 Scholarship Recipient
 
It seems like yesterday that I was filling out the application to take part in the LAFD Merit scholarship journey and now 8 years later, I am honored to say I was able to attend Penn State University, where I graduated with a B.S. in Marketing and a focus in Information Systems Management. Not only did the scholarship provide me the foundation of funding needed to attend my dream school, it gave me the opportunity to represent the LAFD fire family while pursuing goals and aspirations which at the time seemed beyond reach. Soon after completing the process to become an LAFD merit Scholar I auditioned and was selected to represent the University on many levels as the Feature Twirler for the Penn State Blue Band. While at Penn State, I was elected president of my class for my professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and became an active student mentor for the Smeal College of Business and proposed to my now wife, a captain for the Penn State Majorettes. Penn State exceeded my expectations on all levels and gave me a one of a kind education setting me up for success in my professional development and personal life.
 
I graduated from Penn State with a full time offer with Target and moved back to California and became an Executive Team Leader, where I was able to hold many roles in store management, logistics/operations and human resources.  After two years of working for Target in California I relocated back to Pennsylvania where I oversaw the remodel process of the Target location in Central PA. While working on this project I was recruited by Amazon where I currently work on the Amazon Campus Team specializing in pick up services for customers across the country. Amazon has developed my skills and assets and continues to challenge me every day to be innovative and think outside of the box. 
 
In addition to working at Amazon my wife and I have now created our own baton twirling team in central PA. Baton twirling has been a huge part of both of our lives and together we thrive on providing our youth with opportunities to develop on many level just as the LAFD and Jean Perkins Foundation gave me. Our team has now won several national championships and continues to develop year over year and we now have had numerous students who have made the twirling team at Penn State. This past year I also accepted an offer from the director the Penn State Blue Band to join their staff as the Feature Twirler Advisor. 
 
Life has come full circle since receiving the prestigious honor of representing the LAFD as a 2010 Merit Scholar. I would not be where I am today without the endless love and support of my family. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that this scholarship has provided me and would like to thank everyone who continues to make this scholarship possible. On August 16th, 2018 my wife and I welcomed our daughter Macy into the world. We continue to live by the LAFD core values and now have the opportunity to instill these values into the new addition to our family. 

 

 

ALLISON REITMAYER

 
Allison Reitmayer
Graduate 2014
US Naval Academy
2010 Scholarship Recipient
 
I received the LAFD scholarship in 2010, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2014 and commissioned as a Marine Corps Officer.  Although, my bachelor’s degree is in Chemistry I am a Communications Officer, and I work with computers and radios most days.  I am currently a Captain currently stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Ca, studying Information Warfare Systems.  The scholarship allowed me to take advantage of additional leadership training while I was at the Academy.  Most notably, it enabled me to participate in a month long outdoor leadership school.  I received incredible leadership experience and training during my time at the Academy, but this training was by far the most memorable and impactful.  It instilled a sense of adventure in me that inspired me to become a Marine, and I could not have done it without the scholarship and support of the foundation.

 

 

 

KENNA ARANA

 
Kenna-Arana
Graduate 2017
Columbia
2013 Scholarship Recipient
 

In the spring of 2013, my senior year of high school, I was carefully considering the college options I had before me. As I weighed various factors--academic rigor, campus culture, distance from home--I knew that the financial factor was an extremely important one. When I was selected to become an LAFD Merit Scholar, I was excited and grateful because I knew that the LAFD scholarship would provide a source of needed financial support as I prepared to start my first year at Columbia University. Not only did the scholarship help provide for my college education, it also allowed me to purchase the most important school supply I needed--a laptop.

At Columbia, I majored in English and concentrated in Hispanic Studies. Aside from the books I read for my classes, I completed the majority of my readings and coursework on my laptop. The support I received from the LAFDSF also enabled me to take advantage of the numerous extracurricular opportunities that surrounded me. During my time in college, I served as a New Student Orientation Program Leader and as the Co-President of Columbia Catholic Ministry, and I joined the team of a non-profit that was committed to helping high school students get to college by providing free tutoring. After graduation, I knew that I wanted to further my own education, but that I also desired to continue serving students in under-resourced communities.

After I graduated from college in 2017, I joined ACE Teaching Fellows at the University of Notre Dame. During my two years as an ACE Teaching Fellow, I taught high school Spanish and English in Denver, Colorado, while also completing coursework to earn a Master of Education degree. As both a master’s student and a teacher, I spent many hours writing papers and planning lessons on the same laptop that had powered me through college. In the summer of 2019, I graduated from Notre Dame, where I now work as an Associate Program Director for ACE Teaching Fellows. Because of the initial support that the LAFD and Jean Perkins Foundation provided me, I have been able to receive a high-quality education and I am able to work to ensure that students across the country receive the same opportunity that I was given.

 

 

SARAH TAYLOR GOMEZ, MD

 
SarahGomez 
Graduate 2011
MIT
2007 Scholarship Recipient
 
Receiving one of the inaugural LAFD Merit Scholarships in 2007, set me on solid footing as I began my academic journey.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the LAFD scholarship was instrumental in providing me with the means to accept that challenge.  Majoring in Biological Engineering, I graduated from MIT in 2011 with my Bachelors of Science degree in that field.  I attended medical school at the University of San Francisco, and received a Medical Doctorate from there in 2015.  I then continued my studies as a Resident of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health Science Hospital in Portland, Oregon.  In June of 2019, I graduated from OHSU Residency program and am currently continuing my education with a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship position at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

My husband and I travel when we can, including trips to Europe, China, Japan, Central America, and we are heading to New Zealand in 2020.  This part of our lives has been focused on many years of education, and we are both looking forward to settling down someplace in the near future and starting a family.

After 41 years on the LAFD, my father, Ray Gomez, retired this year.  I feel privileged and grateful to have belonged to, and received assistance from the Los Angeles Fire Department family. 

 

 

CANDACE JOHNSON 

 
Candace-R-Johnson
Graduate 2017
Columbia
2014 Scholarship Recipient
 
In the fall of 2014, I attended Columbia University in the City of New York, thanks to the generous support of the Perkins Foundations and LAFD. In January of 2014, the financial burden of college hung heavily on my parent’s shoulders, since they had just finished supporting two children through college. Thankfully, just a few months after I had gotten into Columbia, I received news that I had indeed received the LAFD Merit Scholarship. The scholarship allowed me to relax and fully immerse myself in the wonderful feeling of embarking on a life changing, four-year adventure in New York.

While at Columbia University I studied Computer Science and fostered lifelong friendships. During my first few years at college, I joined the National Society of Black Engineers and went on to become both the Telecommunications Chair & Senator. A few months later, I joined the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee, where I gave tours to prospective students once a week and was picked by the Admissions Committee to be the official face of the virtual tour guide on Columbia’s main website. My last two years, I joined a Consulting Group that worked with non-profits in Manhattan called 180 Degree Consulting and auditioned to be in a play for the Black Theatre Ensemble, where I got the lead role! Immersing myself in theater was one of the most worthwhile experiences of my college career. 

After interning in a wide range of roles from Network Security Analyst to Cyber Security Advisory, I accepted a Software Engineering Role at Workday in 2018. After a year and a half, I was promoted to Software Engineer II. The LAFD Merit Scholarship gave me the chance to pursue the most intellectually stimulating and exhilarating four years at Columbia.  I will forever be grateful to LAFD and the Perkins Foundations. 
 

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