Coast Hills

CoastHills Scholarships Support Diverse, Inspirational Students

by Joshua D. Scroggin
June 29, 2017

After raising five kids and watching them all leave the nest, April Michalski was finally ready to go back to school. So, she opened a clothing boutique.

Michalski needed money for college, so she launched a plan to make it. She used her tax refund for a down payment on a shop location on E. Front Street in Ventura, re-decorated with her own two hands — and BoHo Chic was born.

So far, the daring move has been a success. Michalski takes classes at Ventura College in the morning before the shop opens and again in the evenings after it closes. She’s pursuing a degree in history so she can eventually teach kids about ancient civilizations.

OK, so that’s not your typical college success story, but like April and the rest of this year’s class of CoastHills Gold Standard Scholarship Award recipients will show you, the California community college system is filled with unique and inspiring tales of triumph over adversity.  

Each year, CoastHills Credit Union gives a $2,500 scholarship two two students from each of the nine community college’s within the Credit Union’s field of membership. From Santa Cruz to Oxnard and everywhere in between, CoastHills chose 18 very different students to support with one unifying message: We believe in you.

“We couldn't be more proud of the investment our scholarship program makes in hardworking and dedicated community college students,” said CoastHills President/CEO Jeff York. “Hearing how they triumph over adversity is a huge inspiration to my family and to all of us here at CoastHills.”

  • There’s Tito DeLeon of Santa Maria. At 62, he’s gone to Allan Hancock College to become an administrative assistant after doctors told him his bum knee was no longer fit to continue the construction work he’d been certified to do for more than two decades.

  • And Wesley Burns of Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. His parents’ addictions led to him and two brothers being taken into foster care at a young age. Even after his parents got him back, they were homeless while he was in high school. Now, he’s engaged and set to become a police officer.

  • Celeste Gallegos of Hartnell College in Salinas has been bullied and discriminated against for her severe speech impediment. But she hasn’t let it stop her from becoming a leading videographer at the school and pursuing a career behind the lens.

  • Stephan Edgar was disqualified by the military for having undergone congenital cataract surgery despite getting two congressional nominations to the service academies. He’s happy to settle for being a groundbreaking student government officer at Monterey Peninsula College and a leading computer science major.

  • Jillien Malott was labeled “learning disabled” when chronic ear infections muffled her hearing and delayed her speech development in elementary school. Now she’s president of the Oxnard College honor society and in pursuit of Harvard’s split M.D. Ph.D. program.

  • And Ingrid Leeman was a bicoastal Portuguese translator when she was suddenly diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer that kills 80 percent of its victims. She’s survived five years, and her experience has inspired her to go Santa Barbara City College and pursue a degree in cancer management information.

The stories go on and on.

All 18 of the recipients were celebrated at a June 11 luncheon at The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. CoastHills also provided a night’s stay at the resort as an additional reward for their hard work and dedication.

And to encourage each of the scholarship recipients to adopt CoastHills’ vision statement of making a difference in our neighbors’ lives, each received a $217 voucher (for the class of 2017) to donate to a charity of their choice.

In all, CoastHills dedicated more than $55,000 of support to the students through the CoastHills Community Foundation. The Foundation serves as the fundraising arm or the Credit Union and continues to do great work all year.  

In addition to funding the scholarship program, the Foundation also awarded $50,000 to local nonprofits through its Community Action Sponsorship program in 2016. As CoastHills opened its first branch in Thousand Oaks last year, $25,000 went to charity organizations in Ventura County.


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