University of Southern California
2016 Scholarship Recipient
Before I could fully grasp what college was, I knew that USC was where I wanted to go. As I progressed through my education and into high school, I learned more about what I wanted in a school. As a result, I became even more focused on my goal of attending USC. Finally, in Spring 2016, I learned that I was accepted! Five years later, that moment is still one of my most memorable.
Also memorable was the fear I felt when I had to think about paying for my education. Like many others, the cost of attending my dream school was a huge concern. I applied to scholarship after scholarship with limited success. I applied to the LAFD Merit Scholarship and was overjoyed when I learned that I was one of the recipients. I remember double checking over the phone - “ I got the scholarship, right?” I was shocked, but also assured of my efforts at that moment. My hard work paid off.
Now that I was finally at USC, I had to figure out what was next. “What was all of that effort for,” I asked myself as I tried to figure out how to best spend the next four years. Similar to many other college freshmen, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do post-college (and I’m still figuring that out!). It felt like the next four years would set me on a trajectory for the next phase of my life. Fortunately, during my sophomore year, I began to expand on my interest in fashion and ran with it for the remainder of my time at USC. Eventually, this led me to studying abroad in Milan in 2019, where I had the time of my life and amazing experiences.
When I returned, I had the opportunity to intern on a buying team with a great luxury retailer. This solidified my interest in fashion and I worked continuously to secure a career in the industry. Eventually, I accepted an offer with my current company, Stitch Fix, where I continue to work in buying. It’s an amazing feeling to work in an industry you love. When I think about how I got here, I realize it’s the result of all of the work I put in years ago. Now, when I think “What was all of that effort for,” I know that it was for the amazing college experiences I had and the path that led me down.
The LAFD Merit Scholarship made my college experience much more attainable and for that, I will forever be grateful.
Scholarship Recipient 2011
A lot has changed since I was a kid. I no longer wear matching bucket hats with all my outfits, I don’t need my mom to drive me everywhere and I don’t hate vegetables with nearly as much passion. However, one constant has always been how proud I am to be the daughter of a firefighter. That’s why my continued association with this scholarship means so much to me. Not only did the LAFD scholarship allow me to achieve my dream - and my father’s dream - of attending UCLA, but it also gives me an even deeper connection to the fire department.
My dad’s innate bravery, mechanical skill-set and intense physical strength unfortunately did not get passed on to me in the gene pool, so I have gone a different route. I started out with my degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at UCLA, which allowed me to explore how research and analysis can help us identify and dissect patterns as they apply to humanity in several areas - not just demographically, but also how food production, culture, and other mechanisms change and shift over time. This degree was fascinating to me, but when I graduated I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
So, I kept exploring. I first entered a software company in Santa Monica with an amazing start-up culture that provided some top shelf perks; a candy wall, a free arcade, and company events every week. It was so much fun to work there right after I graduated, but I didn’t think software was where I wanted to base my career so I looked elsewhere. While I was working in software, I started training my colleagues and creating process documents, which I would later discover was my real love. Before I found my true passion, I adventured through city government and finally settled in higher education, where I work now. My current school is amazing and with their support, I just launched my first campus-wide learning and development project. I am so excited about this opportunity to create my own learning materials and distribute them to our different departments. This is truly the culmination of something I’ve been working on subconsciously since my undergraduate years at UCLA.
We don’t always know right away what our passion is going to be. My dad found the fire department in his early twenties and was a natural talent - I’ve heard many of his buddies talk about what a great fireman he was - and I’m glad I’ve found something I can be passionate about too, even if it isn’t quite as courageous. My dad inspires me and I’m so grateful to the LAFD for helping me along this journey and for giving him his purpose.
Jessica M. Reiner
Santa Clara University
2009 Scholarship Recipient
When I visited Santa Clara University as a high school senior, I knew I wanted this to be where I would complete the next chapter of my intellectual development. Upon acceptance, I immediately began to apply for scholarships. It was with great joy that I received the news of being a recipient of the LAFD Merit Scholarship.
Once at SCU I took full advantage of the opportunities Santa Clara had to offer. I joined a sorority that partnered with many philanthropic organizations. I worked my way up into a managerial role at the Call Center in the SCU Development Office. I was truly passionate about raising funds for future college students, knowing that I was able to attend SCU through the many generous gifts of others. I participated in student life as a member of the dance team, and attended my classes with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.
As a Psychology major, I understood that we are social beings and function in a healthier manner when we engage with others. I have learned much about myself and others through my relationships. As I leaned into some of these discoveries, I realized this would be the beginning of trying to understand and learn how to reconcile my grief as a Fire Family survivor.
My father Firefighter/Paramedic Eric F. Reiner was killed in 1998 as part of the Fire 3 helicopter accident. I was 7 years old when he died. His death was, understandably, the most devastating loss in my life. As an adolescent and teenager, I did not know how to make sense of my grief. It was during my time at SCU, with the wonderful relationships that I developed, and the constant support of my family, that I was able to truly embark on my journey of healing. My father’s death was painful and impactful, yet has shaped me into the woman I am today: compassionate, resilient and one who truly values relationships.
Upon graduation, I accepted a job as the Director of First Impressions, at an alternative private school. After a year, I was promoted to Director of Student Development and relocated to Austin, Texas where I opened their first campus. It was thrilling and challenging to move to a city where I knew no one, and yet I knew this would be a positive experience. My psychology degree, and my own experiences of trauma, allowed me to be present to students struggling with various mental and educational issues in their life. After over 3 years in this role, I switched fields in order to develop other technical skills and broaden my knowledge of the business world. I now work as an Executive Assistant for a Tech company that specializes in omnichannel logistics for retailers. I have the opportunity to be right-hand support to an incredible C-Suite team, and I truly love my job.
I am forever grateful to my LAFD community because it was this particular scholarship that allowed me to attend the college of my choice and shaped the trajectory of my professional career. My father only served 9 years on LAFD yet the memory of his life lives on in my mother, my siblings and countless relatives and friends. I am particularly encouraged that every time I attend the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, an LAFD member tells me a story about him, with tears in his eyes. I will always be grateful for the above and beyond support the LAFD provided to me and my family.
Growing up, I looked up to my father as a strong, hardworking, goal-driven man. Although he started out as a high school English teacher, after 10 years into his career, he felt it was time for a change of pace. He became a firefighter for LAFD when I was in kindergarten, and I knew from then on that no matter where you start, you can become successful in any situation when you put in the effort and maintain a positive mindset. As I got older, I embodied this joyful, hardworking attitude myself, and committed to giving my best in everything I took part in.
After receiving this generous scholarship in 2016, I was so blessed to begin college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. My years there turned out to be even more incredible than I could have hoped! Because of the financial freedom that this opportunity provided, I was able to pour my time into friendships, new passions, and pursuing my education to the fullest. I majored in Elementary Education, with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. I was even able to study abroad in Perú and experience life in another country. For my senior project, I combined my interests of education and the Spanish language by creating and teaching bilingual microbiology lessons for 3rd grade students at a local Dual-Language Immersion School.
In addition to academics, I was also able to get involved in several extracurricular activities. I joined the Ballroom Dance Team, which is a competitive Club Sports team that travels to other universities for partner dance competitions. I met some of my best friends through this team, including my husband, who I just married in July 2022! I also became very involved in Cru, a Christian ministry on campus. As part of this organization, I led Bible studies and held a leadership role to help get students connected. My closest friends from this group and I still meet every week! While living through this fulfilling and foundational college experience, I found my place, created unforgettable memories, and blossomed into an independent adult, without the added stress of paying for my education.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that this scholarship created in my life. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I continued at Cal Poly to receive my California Teaching Credential in June 2021, and my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in July 2022. I am now in my second year of teaching, and I am so happy to be an educator for my third graders. Everything has come full circle. Now, I get to be a person who inspires the next generation as they begin their educational careers! I hope that I can help kids to love school with the joy and energy I bring to the classroom each day. I want to teach them to be just like my dad; working hard to pursue their goals, no matter where they started.
Thank you, LAFD, for providing me with a strong foundation to start my career and helping me encourage the next generation!
I knew I wanted to study law from a very young age. I also knew chasing this dream would take a lot of commitment, resources, and most importantly, support from those around me. The LAFD merit scholarship was one of the greatest examples of community support I received to begin my academic pursuits. The scholarship funds allowed me to attend UC Berkeley, fall more in love with the study of law, and ultimately land where I am today.
With the help of the LAFD merit scholarship, it was possible for me to attend UC Berkeley and focus on studying both geography and legal studies. My goal was to learn more not just about the law, but about the world around me and how the two can be at odds. I knew I wanted to go directly to law school once I graduated from Berkeley, but quite a few people made a point of telling me that it was not a good idea for one reason or another. But I already knew that my family and community around me saw my potential and believed I could succeed. So I remembered what my dad always said growing up, applied to law school anyway, and "didn't let anyone tell me otherwise."
In Fall 2018 I started law school at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. At Hastings I learned how many different career paths there were for budding lawyers. I spent the majority of my time in law school working pro bono for lower income elders in San Francisco through a clinic called the Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors, or MLPS. Through MLPS I helped our elderly clients create important estate planning documents, access public benefits they might not have been aware of otherwise, apply for veteran's benefits, and more. I also advocated on clients' behalves against one of the largest mobile phone companies in the country when they improperly took advantage of our clients' age and vulnerability. I saw firsthand how many members of our older generations are often cast aside and left to deal with difficult matters such as these completely on their own. It was incredible to see the gratitude my clients felt after we worked together. I didn't even have elder law on my radar when I entered law school, but by the time I graduated I knew this was a field I could really make a difference in.
Since graduating from Hastings in 2021, I've lived in San Diego and worked in private practice. I work everyday to represent the interests of older adults in my community and protect them from physical and financial abuse. I know I have a long way to go in my career, but if I've learned anything from my dad's time with the LAFD, it's that even at a young age you may already know what career is right for you.
It certainly was not just my own ambition that sent me toward a legal career. My parents, who never doubted my ability to succeed, did (and still do) everything they could to ensure I achieved my dreams, no matter how big or small. They taught me to never settle in life, which is exactly the mindset I needed to get through decades of schooling even when I wanted to quit. I also learned countless lessons watching my dad's career with the LAFD progress. I watched him work harder than most people I know and always strive to do what is right not just for himself, but for his family and colleagues alike. These and many more invaluable lessons from my parents make up the foundation of my character and are the reasons I will always work tirelessly for what I believe in. I have found a real purpose in representing elders and their families, and I am grateful that I learned to never settle until I found my passion. Thank you again to the LAFD Scholarship Fund for believing in me from the very beginning!