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East Union grad gets renewable scholarship
Former East Union High valedictorian Kimberly Lamar wipes tears of joy and surprise from her eyes. - photo by Photo Contributed

It was in her church on a Sunday morning that one Manteca teen heard the answer to her college funding prayers.

Sitting with her dad at the Sequoia Heights Baptist Church on Wawona Avenue waiting for the service to start, Kimberly Lamar, 19, was surprised to hear that a scholarship presentation was being made.

Pastor Mark Mahaffie had known about the presentation for two weeks and had kept it a secret.

They turned toward each other and said it was probably another $2,500 scholarship like the one she had received earlier when graduating from East Union High School last year as its valedictorian. But then she remembers thinking there was no other graduate in her youth group that she thought would be eligible.

As the PG&E representative spoke, she heard that the scholarship was going to a student attending Cal Poly who was majoring in Environmental Engineering – it had to be her. The real shock came when it was also announced that the scholarship was for $20,000, and just as important, it would be renewable for five years – a total of $100,000.

She said that she and her dad couldn’t contain themselves and broke out crying on each other’s shoulders. Kimberly was still wiping away the tears as she approached the stage at the front of the church taking hold of the corner of an enlarged check.

The PG&E Bright Minds scholarship Program is in its third year having 5,600 applicants this year. An additional 90 program finalists were awarded $2,000 each to help with their college costs. The scholarships are based upon a combined demonstration of community leadership, personal triumphs, financial need and academic achievement.

Lamar said she had a Spanish teacher in high school who urged her to take classes in science and math, all the while stressing that a woman engineer could “pretty much get a job anywhere.”

She is currently taking three college classes in multiple support of her major: Calculus, Physics and Chemistry — two in Calculus, two in Physics and two in Chemistry along with the basics to date. She has earned a GPA of 4.54.

After graduating from Cal Poly, Lamar hopes to serve as an environmental engineer in a Third World country, having gone on two mission trips to Tanzania in East Africa in 2009 and 2013 with her church youth group. She recalls seeing firsthand the need for improvements, especially in the acquisition of fresh water.

Lamar said she and her roommate really like people, probably breaking a stigma for the quiet engineering types. You have to be outgoing, she said, in order to make the greatest difference.

“I want to be a humanitarian engineer,” she added. “When I was younger I wanted to be a missionary in Africa or India where my contributions could help at least one person in the third world.”

When growing up, she spent most of her hours out of the classroom on a tight schedule doing homework and training for her choices in sports – golf and swimming. 

“Mom told me in my freshman year that when a person is busy they don’t have time to get in trouble and that I had to go out for at least one sport. I had practice at a certain time and then school, sports, studying and sleep,” she said.

As for her choice of Cal Poly: “I love it. It was the right place for me.”

She said she plans to go on and get her Master’s degree after her college graduation.