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Comcast Awards $174,000 in College Scholarships to California High School Seniors

New America Media, Video, Words: Rupa Dev//Video: Paul Billingsley Posted: Jun 26, 2009

Comcast's Leadership & Achievment Awards Ceremony from Paul Billingsley on Vimeo.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When Corinne Bridgewater of Sacramento selected Howard University to attend this fall, her mother, a school teacher, supported the decision but worried about how they would muster up the funds to cover the $25,000 a-year tuition.

While finding the money for college still poses a big challenge, Corinne got a huge leg up when she became one of 154 standout California high school seniors awarded the 2009 Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship issued by the Comcast Corporation. The recipients, hailing from 27 counties across California, were each awarded $1,000 scholarships at a special lunch and awards ceremony held in front of the state capitol last Wednesday.

In what was said to be one of the most jubilant celebrations held at the capitol in months, spirits were high and cheers were loud as scholarship winners collected accolades while friends, family members, and loved ones proudly watched in the crowd.

"This is the second year we've brought all the winners together and honored them here at the capitol. It really makes this a special day to see [all the scholarship recipients] with their parents, and see their faces and meet them in person," said Bryan Byrd, director of communications for Comcast California.

Since 2001, the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship program has worked with high school principals, guidance counselors, and school administrators to award more than $11.5 million to high school seniors for their leadership skills, positive attitude, academic achievement and community service.

The intent of the program is to prepare young people for the future and demonstrate the importance and value of civic involvement and community engagement. In 2009, the program will give out more than $1.8 million dollars to 1,879 students across the country.

"These young people have such big dreams and they want to go to college and further those dreams. For some, they just can't afford it. They need extra help to get there, so that's why we instituted the scholarships," explained Byrd. "The recession and budget cuts in California have made [financial situations] even worse, so we're really thrilled to be able to help students out in this way."

David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, said, "One of the greatest challenges that we believe exists in America today is education, especially for students in underserved and underrepresented communities. With rising tuition costs and the accompanying economic crisis, college education is increasingly becoming out of reach for too many American high school students.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell thanked students for their contribution to the public education system and praised Comcast for recognizing students achievements both in the classroom and in the community.

"The students here, all 154, really do represent the best of the best, said O'Connell.

Addressing the scholarship recipients, he said, "you represent hope and optimism for all of us, you represent the future, and the future is clearly bright and the best is yet to come."

A surprise raffle created a tinge of ceremonious suspense, determining 15 students who would receive a new laptop computer on stage and two particularly lucky students who would receive the $10,000 Comcast Founders Scholarship, instituted in honor of long-time education advocate Ralph J. Roberts, founder and chairman emeritus of Comcast Corporation.

Corinne Bridgewater, who has dedicated herself to working with underprivileged pre-teen girls to help rebuild self-esteem and confidence, was one of the raffle winners and received $11,000 in scholarship funds. The other winner, Kristina Rodriguez of Tracy High School, will be the first in her family to attend college when she enters the nursing program at Dominican University this fall.

"I got my motivation to work hard from my parents, who always wished they had a higher level of education so they could hold more skilled jobs," said Rodriguez.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan spoke to students about the importance of practicing strong, ethical leadership in future collegiate and professional endeavors.

"Leaders must hold themselves to high ethical standards, they must value the work of their employees or constituents, and they must lead by example. Leaders must be prepared to give back their time and their resources," Buchanan said.

Scholarship recipient Marquis Cox, who is from Oakland and attended James C. Enochs High School in Modesto, thinks he received the scholarship because he gave back to his community and was active in his school newspaper. Cox may become the first in his family to graduate from college when he attends Morehouse College in Atlanta this fall, where he plans to study nursing because he was "always taking care of his grandmother, who passed away last year."

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