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2 Taft Students Get $1,000 Scholarships

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Two graduating seniors at Taft High School were awarded $1,000 scholarships in memory of a student slain at a bus stop near the campus five years ago.

The LaMoun Thames Memorial Scholarship awards were presented Tuesday night during Senior Awards night. The awards are given to average students who are bused into the Valley from South-Central Los Angeles--as LaMoun was--and who have shown great potential and a desire to continue their education.

Jemila Gaston and Hector Cabrales, both 18, both said they intend to enroll at Santa Monica City College in the fall and later transfer to top universities to study medicine.

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The scholarship fund was endowed three years ago by actor Tony Danza, who was touched by the irony of the death of the 15-year-old student who had traveled to Taft in Woodland Hills to avoid the violence in his neighborhood.

“I want to keep this kid’s memory alive,” Danza said before the ceremony. “He was a kid who was a hard worker, he took school seriously. I want to show kids that an education is the tool they need to have to lead a productive life.”

Also in attendance at the ceremony were members of LaMoun’s family, including his mother, Denise Rogers.

“He would love it,” Rogers said of the memorial. “He’d say, ‘Mommy, I did it.’ He wanted to be so many good things when he was coming up.”

LaMoun was fatally stabbed while waiting for a bus at Ventura Boulevard and Winnetka Avenue after a preseason football practice. He was approached by a carload of teenagers and was killed after he told them he had no gang affiliation.

Northridge resident Oscar Lopez, now 21, pleaded not guilty to murder in January after the Los Angeles County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against him.

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Lopez was arrested previously in the case, but charges were dropped in May 1996 when four witnesses disappeared.

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