Recipients tell of benefits of foundation scholarships

The Laguna Beach Scholarship Foundation hosted ceremonies before the 2013 Honors Convocation on Friday for the donors of millions of dollars given over the years to graduating seniors.

This year alone, $323,000 was awarded to 107 students. Donors and presenters were recognized at a dinner in the Laguna Beach High School quad before the convocation in the school's Artists' Theater.

"This is about you," said foundation President Kerry Rubel. "There would be no awards ceremony without you.

"The scholarships we give tonight, through your generosity, recognize the potential in these students and give them opportunities they might not otherwise have," he said.

Ebell Club was the lone donor in 1947. This year, 122 contributors — including one renamed for the late Patsy Ann Weaver, 18 — were honored by the Festival of Arts and 22 by the Rotary club.

Caroline Canaan spoke at the dinner. Last year she received six scholarships and one award.

"A common thread among the awards was your recognition for my academic record, community service and specifically my commitment to working with children," said the USC student.

"With the help of the convocation scholarships, I was not only able to carry a full class schedule, be active in a sorority, play intermural soccer and go to every football game, but to spend over 400 hours as a camp counselor and mentor for USC's official philanthropy, Troy Camp."

Counselors tutor at-risk students at the camp, started 65 years ago by Laguna Beach resident Otis Healy, she said.

"Thanks to the generous support of your scholarship donations, student like me are encouraged and financially prepared to focus on their goals and ambitions beyond the walls of Laguna Beach High School," Canaan said. "So whether we become a Bear, a Gator, Hoya, Duck, Cardinal, Bruin or Trojan, we are all grateful to take with us the strength and encouragement of this community as we follow our dreams.

"Fight on."

Trevor Murphy, who graduated more than two decades before Canaan, expressed similar gratitude for the financial assistance that helped him to a rewarding career in community service.

"Twenty-three years ago on this night, I received a $500 scholarship," Murphy said. "I put that money along with a drawer full of tips earned bussing tables at Sorrento Grille into a savings account. I tapped into that account to buy text books and school supplies for my first two years at UC Berkeley."

It was his first experience in money management, but far from the last.

Murphy earned his undergraduate degree in economics and dreamed of financial success. Buoyed by the belief that the tech bubble would last forever, he decided the time was ripe to join the Peace Corps.

"It was the best decision I ever made," Murphy said.

The decision set him on a career in nonprofit organizations. First he was with the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, for which he set up youth violence prevention and employable skills programs in Africa — where Biehl, formerly of Newport Beach, had been murdered. Most recently, Murphy was the executive director of Save Our Youth, which serves low-income youths in Costa Mesa.

His biggest challenge there was raising enough money to fund scholarships as the cost of tuition escalated.

"Lawmakers have tilted the cost of higher public education toward parents and students," Murphy said. "That is why you (donors) are so important. ...

Thanks to your financial support, our public education in Laguna Beach is robust. I stand before you as a proud product and representative."

The reception also included musical entertainment by students Elliott Glass, Jovan Majano and Kengi Lee, a celebration of the contributions of Gary Shapiro during his 31-year career at the high school. "Shap" taught math, fostered a love of music with his guitar and raised funds for scholarships and for the Safe and Sober Grad Night, via his "No Suits Allowed" concerts.

Scholarship coordinator Lyn Gregory was recognized for her efforts. School board members, foundation trustees and school staff were introduced.

Speakers included high school Principal Joanne Culverhouse and Supt. Sherine Smith.

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