Virgen: Two amazing Toshiba Classic Scholarship Award winners


Clarissa Echevarria and Lauren Kim both have great aspirations for their careers that come from personal experiences. It’s truly fascinating and impressive the way they’ve used those personal experiences as motivation to succeed and thrive.

The two girls were announced as winners of the Toshiba Classic Scholarship Award on Monday at Newport Beach Country Club.

There are 15 finalists for the annual scholarship award. I’ve sometimes wondered how the two winners are decided.

It must be difficult because the 15, who all received Toshiba laptop computers, are amazing students. Echevarria and Kim both felt honored that they were the winners.

Echevarria, 17, a senior at Tustin High, wants to help people who are like her. She was born with cerebral palsy and has been wearing leg braces since she was 2.

She will attend UC Irvine as a pre-med major, she said, and wants to study neurology and oncology.

“I want to learn more about how to reverse my disability or different treatment options,” Echevarria said moments after posing for photos with the scholarship award of $10,000. “I want to study oncology because I knew many people who had cancer while growing up. I want to help make a difference.”

Echevarria spent her first two months of life in the hospital as she was born premature at 29 weeks, she said.

After she got crutches at age 2, she also eventually took on a walker. She sometimes uses crutches and will use a scooter to get around at UCI.

“I see it as a blessing sometimes,” Echevarria told me of her disability. “If I didn’t have it I wouldn’t learn what I know now. I wouldn’t have the experiences I have now.”

Echevarria said an internship at Cal State Fullerton helped her become more interested in medicine. She interned there for bio medical research, studying the West Nile Virus.

Kim, 18, a senior at Woodbridge, set everyone in awe when it was announced that she has a potential patent opportunity.

She tried to explain to me the patent, that involves splitting water from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

“When you split water you have hydrogen gas which can be used for fuel cells,” Kim said. “And also the byproducts of that water splitting reaction is used to naturally purify the air. I tried to use a device that could use the byproducts simultaneously and effectively to work as an electrical source and as an air purifier. It is still not efficient enough to be a commercial product, but the initial design is there. That’s why I submitted a patent application and will keep working on it.”

Kim is headed to Yale, where she wants to study sustainable foods. She has that desire because her sister, Joann, 20, has Asperger’s syndrome.

“She can’t eat certain foods because they effect her behavior,” Kim said of her sister. “I’ve been really curious about that because I’m always looking for ways to help my sister.”

Kim also received a scholarship of $10,000.

Mark Simons, president and CEO of Toshiba America Information Systems, presented the scholarships to the two young women.

“I can’t tell you how important it is as a technology company to honor students such as these,” he said. “How special it is to see these graduating seniors and to hear about the progression of their careers ... that’s what makes this a special part of their careers. This small piece only grows.”