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Rodney James Pimentel Memorial Scholarship

1 winner$5,000
Application Deadline
Apr 30, 2024
Winners Announced
May 30, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school or undergraduate

Rodney James (RJ) was a remarkable soul. He embraced life with unwavering enthusiasm, inspiring all who knew him to find adventure and joy in each day. RJ was a mentor, a brother, and a best friend who was beloved by all. One of RJ’s most inspiring qualities was his dedication to education. His enthusiasm for learning and sharing knowledge was contagious. During his time at UC Berkeley, RJ studied Computer Science, while teaching classes on topics ranging from Sleep Psychology to iOS Development. He was a spirited and steadfast member of the Berkeley community, always encouraging those around him to get involved. To honor his life, love of education, and kind heart, the Rodney James Pimentel Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a student in California who is pursuing an education in STEM. High school and undergraduate students in California are eligible to apply if they are (1) majoring or intending to major in a STEM field and (2) come from a low-income household or disadvantaged community. To apply, please respond to BOTH prompts below, sharing about how you would provide guidance on a major life event to a close friend or loved one AND about a challenge you've faced in your pursuit of a degree in the STEM field.

Selection Criteria:
Essay, Dedication, Impact
Published December 3, 2023
Essay Topic
  1. One of the greatest values of education is the human connection formed along the way. None of us would be where we are now without the support of the people in our lives. Whether it’s a close family member, an educator, or an irreplaceable friend, we can all name someone who has had a hand in shaping us into the individuals that we are today. RJ was one of these people for us. Imagine a situation where a close friend or a loved one comes to you for guidance on a major life decision. Describe how you would respond and handle the situation. This can be an anecdote from a real life experience or a hypothetical scenario.
  2. Describe a challenge you’ve faced in your pursuit of STEM. How would you recommend that future students navigate this challenge?

400–1000 words

Winning Application

Julianna Alderete
Cerritos HighLakewood, CA
Five out of twenty-two. This was the ratio of my younger sister’s Introduction to Computer Science course in her freshman year of high school. Mine? Three of thirty-five. Not even ten percent. This disparity in gender led her to question her place in the STEM field and, in turn, her entire future: “Do I have a future in computer science?” It was a simple question, one that I, along with many others, had wondered as well as we advanced in our knowledge of the subject. Even at that moment, I still had moments of doubt on if the field was right for me. However, her reasoning for her hesitance? Because she was a girl. Because of something so simple as biology. As if being submerged in ice cold water, this was a wake up call to the effects of the obvious disproportionality between women and men in STEM, especially in computer science (CS). The fact that my sister was led to believe she did not have a role in computer science simply because of the demographic was inexcusable. My response to her question: “Why wouldn’t you?” Why wouldn’t she have a future in computer science? At such a foundational level, anyone had a chance in the field; regardless of gender. Telling her this, I also pushed her to give herself a chance. If she enjoyed the critical, technical thinking that came along with engineering functions and softwares, nobody should be able to discourage her from pursuing a greater understanding of these topics. Her dilemma prompted me to reflect on my own experience with the environment of my CS classes, one that was not particularly welcoming to females. It was not uncommon for girls, including myself and my sister, to struggle making friends and reaching out to others for help in CS classes. When group projects rolled around, the few girls in the class were often left alone and ignored by the majority and left to fend for themselves. Navigating through binary mazes and hundreds of lines of codes alone was disheartening. We felt as though we didn’t have a voice. However, this built a strong bond between the girls as we all could relate to each other. It was there I met one of my best friends, Elaine. As we progressed through our understanding of CS together, we found our voices within one another. Having a female companion changed my experience entirely with CS, and I hoped that everyone had an Elaine in their lives. In our senior year, Elaine and I were asked to be representatives for our school’s CS program and attended a trip to our middle school where we had the opportunity to talk to kids one-on-one about the pathway. Thinking back on all the times I’d felt that I had no one to turn to pushed me to use this opportunity to the fullest to be the mentor to these younger kids that I never had. Being able to advise these kids and answer their questions, ones that I too had once struggled with, was rewarding. Speaking one-on-one with the girls was especially motivating, as I informed them of my own experiences but how I’d gotten through it with my school’s female CS community. They reminded me of my younger sister with their doubts and hesitance on whether the field was right for them as girls, and like I told my sister, I told them: “Why wouldn’t it be?” The gender gap in CS is slowly decreasing, but women should band together to help expand our roles within the field. If more women join the field, it will show future (female) students that they should not be afraid of the male-dominated STEM field but rather that they should help to make a difference. Being able to meet such great women as well as guide future students is such a gratifying experience and I will continue to do this as I advance through the field. Hopefully the field will one day be a more diverse community where individuals can thrive alongside one another regardless of any characteristics, because: “Why shouldn’t it be?”


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 30, 2024. Winners will be announced on May 30, 2024.

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