LAFD Merit Scholar Awards

Thursday, June 8, 2017
Award recipients
LAFD Merit Scholar Award Recipients
Photo Credits: 
Creative Commons Licensed For Your Use: LAFD Photo | Tanner Connant, LAFD Volunteer Photographer

In today's 11th annual LAFD Merit Scholar Awards Ceremony, the academic excellence and demonstrated leadership of 11 college-bound students was honored.

The Merit Scholar Awards are cash grants, made possible through the Jean Perkins Foundation, of up to $20,000 ($5,000 per year while the student continues to be enrolled and making normal progress toward a college degree). To be eligible, a student must be the child or stepchild of an active or fallen LAFD sworn employee. The eligible student must be a high school senior or college freshman, who will be enrolled in the fall as a full-time student in an accredited college or university. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit. The single most important factor is academic achievement, but the all-civilian Selection Committee considered other relevant criteria, including personal character and extracurricular accomplishments.
This year’s awardees were students who demonstrated excellence in academic studies, good character, high moral standards, leadership, distinction in extra-curricular activities, personal accomplishments and a potential for future success.  The LAFD Merit Scholarship Fund Board of Directors had the difficult task of selecting the top candidates from an extremely competitive pool. 
The 2017 LAFD Merit Scholar Award Recipients are Rachel Brown, daughter of Captain II Jeff Brown; Lia Kitahata, daughter of Captain II Thomas Kitahata; Nicolette Ruiz, daughter of Battalion Chief Jim Ruiz; Micah Tobon, son of Firefighter III Gilbert Tobon.  (all bio's provided below).  
This year’s five Runner-Up Award winners are to be congratulated for their outstanding merits. Each received a one time grant of $2,500. They are Nina Hernandez, Angelina Maldonado, Derek Ruedy, Anna Vidovich and Taylor Wasserman.
The winner of this year’s “Best Essay” award of $2,500, generously sponsored by the LAFD Foundation, was Nina Hernandez.
The Fujikawa Leadership Award is a one-time award of $2,500 in memory of Ron Fujikawa, a founding board member, to be determined based on Applicants’ essays describing their personal leadership experiences.  The winner of this year's Fujikawa Leadership Award was Paris Barraza.
We would like to thank Mr. James Carroll III and Mr. Joe Connolly, Executive Board Members of the Jean Perkins Foundation and the LAFD Merit Scholarship Fund’s Board of Directors, Dick Barrett, John Anglin, G. Louis Graziadio III, Vicky Leck, Tom Mizo, Robert Nicholas and Molly Taylor for their dedication and support of our members and their children. We are also grateful to the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation for their sponsorship of the “Best Essay” award and to the LAFD Sertoma Club, the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, LAFD Historical Society and the Los Angeles Firefighter’s Association, Stentorians of City of Los Angeles and the Firefighters First Credit Union, who sponsored the awards reception.
The announcement for the 2018 competition should be posted early 2018 at
Rachel BrownRachel is  a graduating senior from Newbury Park High School (NPHS) and is the daughter of Captain II Jeff Brown, assigned to the Fire Station 60  (29 years LAFD). She will be attending UCLA majoring in Nursing.   Rachel has been a volunteer for the National Charity League where she assists with various philanthropies in the community such as Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Special Olympics and “Relay for Life”.  Rachel has a passion for medicine. She has volunteered at the Westminster Free Clinic(WFC) while taking a Medical Assistant Licensure course.  WFC is a healthcare clinic for low income and homeless patients.  She was responsible for taking patient histories, vital signs, presenting patients to the doctor and assisting patients through the whole healthcare process.  Rachel has held a variety of integral positions with the NPHS Associated Student Government including President and Activities Commissioner.  She implemented the new tradition Panther Palooza, a “battle of the bands”-type of event to spotlight diverse groups of students on campus. Rachel’s athletic abilities include NPHS Cross Country and Track and Field teams from 2013- 2016.  She has received the Principal Scholar Athlete Award, California  Interscholastic Federation for Achievement in CSF Championships for NPHS Cross Country, as well as State recognition.  Other awards include the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award,  2016, for completing 274 service hours in one year and Certificate for Commendable Volunteer Services in 2016 for work at the Westminster Free Clinic.  She has also received awards for Honor Roll for 2014 - 2017.  Rachel graduates with a  4.5 GPA.
LIA KITAHATALia is a graduating senior from Westlake High School (WHS) and the daughter of Captain II Thomas Kitahata assigned to F.S. 69 (30 years LAFD).   Lia will be attending the University of Washington in Seattle, majoring in Computer Science.  Lia has been a member of the Girl Scouts for 12 years and has served as Troop Leader and Treasurer.  She grew up camping and her experiences transformed her into a lover of  nature, exploring the outdoors and a longing to see the world.  One of her favorite family trips was to Peru.  Learning the culture and  language was eye-opening, fascinating and ignited a desire to learn about other cultures.   Lia has volunteered for the Lutheran Social Services Homeless Shelter, Special Olympics World Games, and the Los Angeles Fire Department Spark of Love Toy Drive.  Lia is a team member and manager of the Westlake Swim Team and a certified American Red Cross Lifeguard.  As a member of the California Scholarship Federation she served as Secretary from 2015 - 2016 and as President 2016-2017.  Lia also served as treasurer of the Student Scholarship Federation from 2015 - 2017.  Lia is a member of the National Honor Society 2016 - 2017.  She has received awards for AP Scholar with Honor (2015) with Distinction (2016), WHS Stellar Student Award Fall 2016, an honor given by teachers and counselors for character and academics.  Lia has also received the Athlete Award 2014 - 2016, Girl Scout Gold Award 2015; Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award for completing over 500 community service hours 2015; Commendation for Service to Community California State Assembly District 44, 2015;  Co-Valedictorian 2017.   Lia graduates from Westlake High School with a 4.8 GPA.
NICOLETTE RUIZ“Nikki” is a graduating senior from Trinity Classical Academy (TCA) and the daughter of Battalion Chief Jim Ruiz assigned to Homeland Security (30 years LAFD).  Nikki will be attending the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior.  She has demonstrated her leadership skills early on.  TCA did not have a cheer team but Nikki wanted to cheer for her school.  She approached teachers and coaches to help establish the TCA Cheer Team. Nikki’s commitment extended to leading summer cheer camp and through her dedication the TCA Cheer Team has won various competitions.  The summer of 2013 Nikki founded the Girl’s Discipleship Program for Spiritual Emphasis week at Hume Lake Camp.  The purpose of the discipleship was to create community among the high school girls, make the week more personal, learn what their purpose and identity is as young women grounded in Biblical teaching.  Today the discipleship meets once a week throughout the school year. This year Nikki has been hosting the Bible study with three other girls and mentored two of them to continue it after she graduates. She volunteers at the Hart Games Special Olympics.  Nikki is a member of Young Americans or Freedom and Mock Trial - Speech and Debate Team.  She is also a member of the TCA Track and Field Varsity Team 2016 - 2017, Varsity Cheer for four years and served as Captain 2015 - 2017.   Nikki has received the Coaches’ Award for Outstanding Leadership 2014 and 2015, Academic Excellence Award 2013 - 2017 and Distinguished Scholar Diploma the highest TCA diploma award for completing the greatest number of  math, science and language courses offered at Trinity Classical Academy in 2017.  Nikki graduates with a 4.7 GPA.
MICAH TOBONMicah is a graduating senior at Saugus High School (SHS) and the son of Firefighter III Gilbert Tobon assigned to FS 114 (33 years LAFD).  He will be attending Ohio University, majoring in Computer Science with a focus on Electrical Engineering.  Since he was 11 years old, Micah has been helping friends and administrators set up, and troubleshoot personal computer systems and servers.  During his freshman and sophomore years he was head producer for an on campus daily news show called the “Saugus News Network” from 2013 -2015. Micah has volunteered with the “A Million Meals” organization packing meals for the hungry and homeless throughout the world.  He has also traveled with North Park Community Church building houses and providing food and clothing to homeless people in Mexico. He was involved with the SHS Ameri-Student Program to integrate Chinese exchange students in 2016 and under the SHS Mentorship Program, he worked with incoming freshman to ensure  their success.  He also participated in “Every Fifteen Minutes” spreading awareness of drunk driving.  Micah has participated in organized basketball for over 13 years and shared his love for basketball by coaching elementary and middle school kids since his freshman year.  He was Captain of the SHS JV Basketball Team 2013 - 2015 and Captain for the Varsity Team 2015 - 2017.  Micah has received awards for Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman J/V and Varsity Basketball, 2013 - 2017 and the SAMMY Award which is given to an athlete that maintains a GPA of 3.75 or higher while being a leader for his team.  Micah is a member of the Honor Society 2013 - 2017,  the California Scholarship Federation  2013 -2017, Junior/Senior Honor Scholar 2017.  Micah is an international competitive gamer and graduates with a 4.5 GPA.


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