Ford Scholars

Five KCSD seniors win four-year college scholarships

May 21, 2020

Five Klamath County School District seniors – including three from Bonanza Junior-Senior High School – have been awarded Ford Family Foundation scholarships that will pay for 90 percent of their college costs for four years.

Recipients are Bonanza seniors Cassidy Byrne, Chris Eck, and Breanna Mestas; Lost River senior Yulisa Alonzo Zamora; and Gilchrist senior Larken Ackley.

KCSD’s award winners have career plans – medical, nursing, environmental product design, law enforcement, and business -- that will positively impact their communities. This is the first time Bonanza has had Ford Scholars since 2012, and the only time the school has had three.

“I am really proud of the kids for their hard work, perseverance, and excellence during their time at Bonanza,” said Principal Jordan Osborn. “They are role models for future students and proof our kids can accomplish great things.”

Of 6,000 or so applicants, 200 are selected for interviews. Of those, the Ford Family Foundation selects up to 125 students from Oregon and 14 students from Siskiyou County, Calif., who demonstrate exceptional academic and personal potential. The Ford Scholars scholarship covers 90 percent of unmet college costs and is calculated on cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, personal costs, etc.), minus other grants and scholarships.

“We strive to select recipients whose past and potential are worthy of special support,” according to the Ford Family Foundation. “Scholarship awardees demonstrate an understanding of the value of education, work, taking responsibility, giving back, and helping others.”

Klamath County School District’s Ford Scholars are:

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Gilchrist senior Larken Ackley, 18, plans to attend Oregon Tech this fall to study for a degree in diagnostic medical sonography.

“I want to give back, and being able to get my post-secondary degree, and live a full life will enable me to do that,” she said. “I’m a very self-driven person because I want so much out of my life, and I have to do the above and beyond to get there.”

Larken is graduating in June as class salutatorian with a 3.78 GPA and college credits in math and English. She is ASB secretary and a member of National Honor Society. A student-athlete, she competes in volleyball and basketball.

She helped organize the Pumpkin Run for youth and volunteered at school-related events. She also volunteers as a SMART reader. As part of the ASB leadership team, she helped organize and implement a grant-funded program that provided hygiene supplies for students.

She has worked since her freshman year of high school, taking jobs at Dairy Queen and Subway. For the past two years, she has been employed at The Mohawk in Gilchrist, and at Carson’s American Kitchen and the Twisted River Tavern at Sunriver Resort.

The Ford scholarship will help her fulfill her dream of attending college.

“I’ve been scrambling to save money,” Larken said. “As soon as I opened that letter (from the Ford Foundation), it took a weight off my shoulders.”

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Growing up in Southern California, Cassidy saw area beaches and wildlife preserves riddled with trash. That image stayed with him, and today is guiding his choice of career path.

The 18-year-old Bonanza senior plans to attend the University of Oregon this fall and major in product design. His goal is to create biodegradable products to help protect the environment.

“I just really want to have a positive impact on the environment because soon we will not be able to turn back,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy will graduate with a 4.0 GPA. He is ASB co-president, National Honor Society president, a three-year member of FBLA, and four-year VEX Robotics participant.

A student-athlete, he runs cross country and participates in track and field. His volunteer experience includes work with Bonanza Cares and the Bonanza Lions Club. As ASB co-president, he worked last summer to create a welcome video for his classmates and helped organize an inspirational back-to-school assembly.

Cassidy is one of three Bonanza seniors to win the scholarship in a graduating class of 27.

“It’s amazing, and I’m glad all the finalists at Bonanza got the scholarship,” he said. “I’m really happy for all of us and excited to see where this scholarship takes us.”

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Bonanza senior Chris Eck will use the Ford Scholarship to attend Oregon Tech, where he plans to major in business.

Chris, 18, is graduating with a 3.79 GPA and college credits in writing and speech. He is involved in FBLA, robotics, cross country and track.

During high school, Chris earned his commercial airman certification so he could fly his drone. He was a standout FBLA competitor and qualified for state in robotics.

He currently has a job at Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches.

“I am ready to see what is next, what happens in my life,” he said.

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Bonanza senior Breanna Mestas, 18, plans to attend Corban University in Salem, Ore., and major in criminal justice. She wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.

A standout athlete, Mestas was recruited by Corban and offered a partial scholarship to compete on its women’s wrestling team. A three-sport athlete in high school, she competed in volleyball, wrestling, and softball.

Breanna will graduate with a 3.75 GPA. She is a member of the National Honor Society and active in FFA and 4-H. While in high school, she volunteered with “My Future, My Choice,” teaching seventh-graders about sex education. She also has worked with Bonanza Cares, a nonprofit organization that helps the Bonanza community.

She participates in 4-H, raising and showing sheep. She loves German shepherds and is interested in law enforcement canine training.

“I was so surprised to hear I got the scholarship,” she said. “It’s amazing. It’s what my grandpa (the late Lafe Smith) always wanted, for me to go to college.”

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Lost River senior Yulisa Alonzo Zamora, 18, will study nursing at Oregon Tech next fall.

“I’ve always had a passion for the medical field, and the last two years I was able to do rotations at the hospital,” she said. “It was such as amazing experience.” (Lost River offers the rotations through a dual credit health occupations program with Klamath Community College).

The 18-year-old will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and college credits in psychology, math, writing, and speech. She is a member of FBLA and her junior year served as ASB secretary. She volunteers with the Malin Community Service Club and Leo Club, a youth organization of Lions Clubs International.

Her father, who works in agriculture, has put in extra hours during the COVID-19 pandemic and Yulisa has been working with him the last few weeks, grading potatoes.

“My parents were a big motivation,” Yulisa said. “I wanted to make them proud, and I wanted them to know all their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Getting this scholarship means I will be able to succeed in life.”

Yulisa grew up in Malin, and said she appreciates the opportunities she has received despite living in a small town.

“I want to thank my community, and give a special thanks to my teachers, friends, and family. I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”