Irvine teen awarded $25,000 scholarship for innovative music project

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2023 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 16-year-old Helaine Zhao of Irvine.

Zhao won a $25,000 scholarship for her project, “Finding Focus: A Musical Medium to Increased Attention Span.” She is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

“Being able to become a Davidson Fellow through music is a dream come true for me,” Zhao said. “I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share my project and musical ideas with more people.”

Drawing on her 13-year journey with piano, Zhao’s project explores the intriguing intersection of instrumental music practice and concentration enhancement. Zhao was inspired to create the initiative after observing the significant improvement in her piano students’ attention spans over time.

Zhao’s “Finding Focus” project illustrates the pivotal role of music as a unique, effective tool for training focus and attention. The project aims not only to boost productivity and problem-solving capacities, but also highlight the role of music in fostering community connection and empathy.

Zhao is a rising senior at Pacific Academy in Irvine, where she balances her time between academics and her profound love of music. Outside of her musical commitments, Zhao enjoys writing, baking and reading. She has published five novels online, launched her own cookie business, and founded Between You & I Organization, a nonprofit that encourages student volunteers to make a positive impact on the community.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program offers $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships to students 18 or younger who have completed significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature and music.

– Submitted by the Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program

Anaheim student’s substance use prevention artwork placed on Buena Park bus shelters

Kennedy High School graduate Lena Chin is working to help keep her peers drug- and alcohol-free through her art.

Waymakers unveiled Chin’s artwork on a Buena Park bus shelter recently. The piece was selected after securing highest accolades in a districtwide Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) art contest titled “Connections over Addiction,” which promotes substance use prevention among youth.

Chin’s winning entry, “Surround Yourself with Helping Hands,” illustrates how encircling oneself with supportive people and reaching out for help can support youth in remaining alcohol- and drug-free.

The 4×6 ad displaying Chin’s artwork is at the bus stop in front of Farmer Boys on Valley View near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue in Buena Park.

The winning artwork will be displayed at three locations through Oct. 11. Two additional displays are at the intersection of La Palma Avenue and Knott Avenue and the intersection of Ball Road and Walker Street in Anaheim.

Western High School parent named GEAR UP’s Family Leader of the Year

Juana Rojas, a parent in the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program at Western High School, is celebrating her recognition as the 2023 GEAR UP Family Leader of the Year. She was honored during the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) conference this summer.

Rojas is the mother of an alumnus and a current student from Western High School in the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD). She was nominated by Cal State Fullerton GEAR UP for her outstanding commitment, leadership and engagement in pursuit of her students’ educational success.

As a parent in the GEAR UP program at Western High School, Rojas consistently juggles the demands of her personal commitments while signing up for educational events and spreading the word among other GEAR UP families. Her integration into the Western High School community began years ago with her oldest child, and she has since maintained a strong and enduring connection with the campus community. She always finds time to volunteer by participating in the Parent Teacher Student Association and Family Engagement committees as well as supporting events at the school.

Rojas’ dedication to empowering others and building meaningful connections makes her a true all-star within the GEAR UP and AUHSD communities.

GEAR UP is a federally funded grant awarded to Cal State Fullerton in partnership with the Anaheim Union High School District.

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