El Segundo High School Alumnae Pay It Forward through Scholarships for Future Generations

The class established its scholarship program in 2004 as a way to give back to the community and support students of future generations who would subsequently walk the halls of the same high school decades later. In 2015, the Eagles of Eighty-Two officially became a nonprofit organization in support of higher education. One significant benefit of the 501(c)3 nonprofit designation is that the organization qualifies for employer matching funds associated with those who make donations to the Eagles of Eighty-Two.

The idea for the Eagles of Eighty-Two scholarship program was conceived by ESHS alumna and El Segundo resident Julie Peterson Stolnack. She was inspired by a “challenge to give back” delivered by former ESUSD Superintendent Bruce Auld at an ESHS Senior Awards Night Ceremony in 2003. In addition to Stolnack who serves as president, Eagles of Eighty-Two is led by Dianna Smith Day, vice president, and DeDe Charsha Gerber, treasurer/secretary.

“After that awards ceremony, I went home and wrote a letter to all of my classmates suggesting I would like to establish a scholarship on behalf of the class of 1982,” said Stolnack. “I requested that each member of the class donate $10 or any amount that they could afford large or small. That year, we raised $500 for one scholarship. This year, we raised $14,000 including matching funds, and a grant from the Tarsadia Foundation and are proud to be able to award seven deserving ESHS seniors with scholarships.” ESHS Class of 1982 alumnus Shirish Patel Dayal obtains the annual grant from the Tarsadia Foundation, which was founded by his family in support of educational opportunities for the underserved.

Stolnack says that each year between 26 and 32 members of the ESHS class of 1982 donate to their scholarship program and she is hoping for increased participation. Since the program was established in 2004, the class has collectively awarded 42 scholarships to ESHS seniors for a grand total of $52,000. The funds are depleted each year directly for scholarships, and the fundraising campaign begins the same time each year with a personal letter from Stolnack to her classmates.

It is her hope that other ESHS alumnae classes will follow suit and establish scholarship programs similar to this one. “I challenge other classes to give back and make a difference in the lives of El Segundo kids, every little bit helps when it comes to paying for a college education.” Stolnack says the program is surprisingly simple to administer and the benefits are priceless.

One of the perks of being a donor to the Eagles of Eighty-Two scholarship program is being invited to sit on the selection committee. This year, seven contributing members of the Class of 1982 sat on the selection committee and had the honor of interviewing 11 finalists from the Class of 2016.
“Interviewing these students is my favorite part of the process aside from actually awarding the scholarships,” said DeDe Gerber. “The purpose of the interviews is to have an opportunity to get to know these students. We believe it makes for a more personalized and rewarding process for all involved.”

The Eagles of Eighty-Two Scholarship recipients for 2016 are:

Ellyse Barriga
Megan Burns
Susana Kalish
Alyssa Lopez
Manual Pinfano
Lizeth Ulloa
Jansyn Williams

The scholarships are also a means for recognizing ESUSD educators and staff who have made lasting impressions on ESHS alumnae, including beloved husband and wife English teachers Richard and Kathryn Peterson who challenged and mentored many students who graced the halls of ESHS in the 1980s. “This year, we decided to present scholarships in the name of not only Mr. and Mrs. Peterson for their dedicated service to our alma mater, but also in honor of recently retired janitor Gable Solomon, who served ESHS for 35 years,” said Dianna Day. “Gable sat on the interview panel and his kind, caring manner put the students at ease when they walked into the room and saw Gable’s familiar face and warm smile. During Senior Awards Night, Solomon presented the $2,000 scholarship in his name to ESHS senior Megan Burns.”

ESHS students may apply for the Eagles of Eighty-Two scholarship using the standard scholarship application provided by El Segundo High School. Students must have a 3.0 GPA or higher and plan to attend a two- or four-year college or university, or vocational school to be eligible.

“A lot of these scholarship recipients have very touching stories, and we are so happy to support them in their journeys to achieve their educational goals,” said Stolnack.