By Cindy Arora
For San Clemente High School seniors Leslie Ramos, Nathan Kuhn and Kasey McDaniel, their dreams of college were cinched when they were awarded scholarships from the Angels Baseball Foundation.
The scholarships cover tuition, fees, summer school, housing, meal plans, lab fees, exam fees, healthcare, textbooks, dorm supplies and even transportation to get home during breaks.
For Ramos, Kuhn and McDaniel, students in San Clemente’s AVID program, their dedication to school and their community was what separated them from the 40 finalists they were up against.
Now, with scholarships in hand, their college journeys begin.
“We are exceptionally proud of our outstanding San Clemente High School AVID seniors who have earned this achievement,” said Erin Dollar, AVID Coordinator and teacher. “They will all be attending their universities on a full ride scholarship.”
Each San Clemente High School student has their own story of how school, family and the pursuit of academic excellence brought them to this moment.
Learn more about each scholarship recipient:
Name: Leslie Ramos
Favorite Food: Cookies & Cream Ice Cream and her mom’s tamales
College attending: USC – Civil Engineering
How is the Angels scholarship going to help you?
In my case, the financial aspect of attending college was the only thing keeping me from reaching my goal. It was rewarding to know that the Angel’s scholarship committee was willing to invest in my future and I am very thankful. This scholarship will allow me to focus on my academics and get involved with the student life on campus.
How did it feel to discover you won?
I definitely cried while I expressed how grateful I was for the opportunity. The first person I told was my mom and she just gave me the biggest hug and we cried together.
To win, students were not solely judged on their academics, but also on their dedication to academics, and their participation in their community. How did you fit the requirements?
My parents gave up their dreams for my own and that has always been my fuel. I constantly challenged myself academically and never let someone else’s daunting experience with a course push me away. As for community involvement, the Boys & Girls Clubs became a place where I could connect with my community’s younger kids and lead by example. My favorite part of high school was in the later years, when I had more freedom to choose the classes that interested me.
How are you doing at home during COVID-19?
It is crazy to think that seniors will not get to experience the best part of senior year and that we are missing out on all of the festivities and traditions. Personally, I have tried to make the best out of staying home and enjoying the company of my family. I am cherishing every moment we share, home cooked meals we eat, and even every sister fight because I know things will never be the same once I move out.
What advice can you give students at your school about high school and striving?
My parents may not have had an extensive education but they taught me to be resilient and work hard. My advice to SCHS students is to be more confident in themselves. A lot of times as students we think grades define our future but that’s only the beginning. Remember that universities are not looking for a 4.0 student, they are looking for a well-rounded student who also devotes time to their interests and their community. That’s definitely something I kept in mind through my four years.
Name: Nathan Kuhn
Favorite food/dessert: Definitely cheesecake. Although my mom owns a restaurant, my grandma’s salmon tacos have always been my favorite meal ever since I was little.
College attending: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – Biochemistry
The Angels Baseball Foundation sought students who had academics and community involvement, can you share how you fit the profile?
I started volunteering as a freshman when some of my friends asked me to join Team Zissou, an environmental protection club at San Clemente High School. Through Team Zissou, I participated in local beach clean-ups, removing invasive plant species along the coast, and building a garden at a preschool whose children come from low income households. During my sophomore year, I found Community Outreach Alliance (COA), which provides healthy alternatives to partying for teens such as tennis clinics, open mic nights, and beach events. At the beginning of my junior year, I started volunteering at Aegis, a local senior citizen’s home, every Tuesday. I realized I enjoyed playing board games with the residents and setting up events there, so I kept going every Tuesday until COVID-19 put a damper on things.
At the same time I started with Aegis, I joined the club Next Step, which is run by the OC Sheriff’s Department and has high school students educate middle school students about the harmful effects of substance abuse. Coming from a long family history of substance abuse, I became very passionate about the club and became Vice President. I got to go on two Washington D.C. trips with Next Step where I got to attend a conference and listen to seminars led by leaders of the national anti-drug campaign.
What about high school has surprised you?
I was surprised to find out that teachers are people too and they are really on our team to see us succeed. Every teacher I have had has helped me grow in some way, shape, or form and I am so happy with all of the relationships that I have made with them. I actually would not be where I am now without these amazing people putting their effort into my education and nominating me for this scholarship. I am so blessed to have these people in my life.
What are you looking forward to in college?
I am really looking forward to the change in schedule during college. Rather than taking six different subjects at the same time, I will be taking fewer classes, allowing me to put more energy and time into each class. I am also excited for having a major that I am interested in that my classes are all centered around so that I do not have to take as many classes that I am not very interested in. I really want to get involved in some lab research and see what projects Cal Poly’s biochemistry department is working on.
What advice can you give about high school and striving?
On top of study skills, you have to learn when you have stretched yourself too thin. I learned that at the beginning of my senior year when I decided to take five AP/IB classes on top of working 3 nights a week, on top of running 70 miles a week for cross country, on top of volunteering two hours a week, on top of having a zero period. I decided to drop AP Physics, because I was already taking AP Chemistry and I could do without the extra class. This gave me a free period just for doing homework, so that by the time I was done with (Cross Country) practice after school I could have a few hours to be Nathan – and maintain my social and home life and get to bed at a decent time. As long as you know that you are doing your best, it is okay to lighten your load. And at the end of the day you are the only one that can measure if you are doing your best, so if you can look yourself in the mirror and know you are the best you that you can be – then your work will pay off.
What has helped you grow outside of academics?
Running on the varsity cross country and track team. Honestly, running has provided me with an outlet for my stress from school and life and a place where the only thing I have to focus on is the next stride. Likewise, my teammates are my family and I have developed some of my closest friends that have also decided to live healthy lifestyles and strive in their academics. While running did take a lot of my energy and time, I found it worth working into my schedule, because it helped me grow not just as a student but as a person.
Name: Kasey McDaniel
Favorite food/dessert: I love the spinach and cheese ravioli at the Old Spaghetti Factory.
College attending: Grand Canyon University – Mathematics and minor in dance
How is the scholarship going to help your college journey?
The scholarship is going to help me pursue all of my interests without stressing about how to pay for all my college expenses. It really means the world to me this program acknowledged all the hard work I’ve placed into not only my education, but also my love for serving others.
The Angels Baseball Foundation sought students who had academics and community involvement. How did you fit the profile?
I have worked extremely hard in high school, taking numerous honors and AP courses each year, leading me to have a 4.0 unweighted and 4.5 weighted GPA. I make sure I stay balanced and took 3 difficult classes, while also having some less stressful ones so I wasn’t extremely overwhelmed, but I never slacked off in my courses.
Volunteering ended up being a huge thing for me throughout high school as well. One of the board members at Angels actually commented on my amount of volunteer hours and thanked me for dedicating myself. I believe as of now I have somewhere between 700-800 service hours. I never even realized I was doing that much, as I just enjoyed serving.
Some of the main areas I volunteered with are serving as Link Crew President and planning events and activities to help freshmen have a positive experience with older mentors to help them through their first year. Another main area has been through volunteering as a tutor at our after school tutorial program, where student tutors could help others with a variety of subjects. I also volunteer at my dance studio, assisting with our preschool dance program. I also volunteer at my church in the Children’s Ministry, being a leader for summer camps, and going on mission trips down to Mexico to love on the local children by throwing carnivals, and helping build new buildings or fix old buildings for churches and orphanages.
If you aren’t studying, where can we find you?
If I am not at school or home, you can most likely find me in my dance studio. I am a competitive dancer at Capistrano Dance Company and love taking classes in ballet, contemporary, jazz, lyrical, improvisation, and more. I absolutely love performing and growing in my technique and movement with the most supportive team mates and coaches. If I am not in class or competitions, I am probably either hanging out with my friends or in small groups at my church. Unfortunately, many of these are online now, but at least we still have the opportunity to connect.
What are you looking forward to experience your first year in college?
I am looking forward to starting at a new place and taking my first step of “adulting.” I love meeting new people so this will be a great chance to be the person I want to be and meet new amazing people. I am also looking forward to focusing on specific classes for my future career and my passions as well (with both my major and minor). As college is not required, the people there will be much more motivated to work and have a want to learn, rather than being forced to. I think college will expand my horizons in both a social nature and my student side.
Do you have any advice for students as they look forward to college?
Go to football games, go to every dance you can. You never know when it may be your last and the memories will last a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to meet new people and it is OK if your friend group changes. Life is full of change and learning how to manage it and grow with it is so important. Also, many people believe that their past defines them, so to just sit in it and not try to make something more. I have dealt with many hardships throughout my life, and I had many excuses to let my grades drop or motivation drop, but I worked hard to move past those and use them as stepping stones towards growth rather than areas that were holding me back. I have watched myself grow more throughout high school by getting involved and working hard than I ever could if I let my surroundings determine my success.