The California Retired Teachers’ Association (North San Luis Obispo County, Division 86) has provided 75 scholarships to students from Paso Robles, Atascadero, Templeton, Shandon, Cambria and Cayucos for the past 20 years. With just 42 students in the senior class at Coast Union this year, only five students applied for the Coast Union CRTA scholarship. Three members of the organization interviewed the five students on March 16; the retired teachers were unanimous in their selection: Brittany Powell. On May 16, she was awarded the scholarship at a CRTA tea in Paso Robles.
Two unexpected, dramatic events took place in Brittany’s life, requiring her to move to Cambria and live with her grandmother at age 14. Because of a learning problem (dyslexia) she struggled with school, but a number of Coast Union teachers (including Sherry Aguilar and librarian Shannon Jackson) and counselor Cheryl Seay stepped forward to assist her.
A lot of needy students need assistance. Mrs. Seay informed me that she has some students who will be the first in their family to earn a high school diploma and some are living in their cars. Parents often work at several jobs. This younger generation will eventually run our country. Scholarships and school budgets are not expenses; they are investments in the future of this nation — especially important since we presently rank 49th in literacy in the world.
When I first learned of Brittany’s background, I immediately asked myself: Where does a 14-year old girl find role models and how can she develop a sense of identity and confidence?
“As for role models,” she said, “I knew I didn’t want to be like any of the losers I was surrounded by while I was growing up.” Boy friend Eddie Salazar has been very supportive for the four years they have been together.
For people to have such a miserable start, it is not unusual for them to give up on life or be angry against the world for all the misfortune and hardships. For a moment, consider what your life would be like if you had the same experiences as Brittany. Maybe you did have the same start. If so, you can certainly have nothing but respect and admiration for how she has accepted her challenges and is following her goal — she wants to be a nurse and help others.
We live in an affluent community, yet many people would be surprised to find out how many students struggle because of family hardships and a lack of parental support.
Contact Coast Union (927-3889) if you would like to contribute to the local scholarship program.
At the end of her application provided to the CRTA, Brittany included a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself.”
Email John Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org
As announced by longtime columnist John Brannon in this space on May 10, this is the last in the long run of weekly appearances of “My Turn” in The Cambrian.
BUT — As Brannon will be in his beloved Cambria for at least another six months as he prepares to sell his home here of 30 years and move to Costa Mesa to be near family, he’s agreed to continue writing a monthly “My Turn” column. It will appear the fourth Thursday of the month for the duration.
We’ve already received several submissions for what we’re dubbing “Your Turn.” As we said in “Editor’s Notes” on May 24, we’re looking for your thoughts about the Cambria experience. Send anywhere from six to 600 words to cambrian@the tribunenews.com (for more, see http://bit.ly/L13Inf).
— Bert Etling