Our 2019 winners graduated from Newark Memorial, Berkeley High, Skyline, McClymonds, Lighthouse Community Charter, Livermore High, Oakland Technical High School, Encinal, and Granada High. They are headed to UC Berkeley, Cal State Northridge, U.C. Santa Barbara, Menlo College, U.C. Davis, the Wharton School at Penn, and Yale. These Coliseum Scholarship winners have all achieved academic excellence. Every one of our scholars maintained an exemplary grade average with several above 4.4. Beyond grade point and SAT scores which were extraordinary…including a high of 1510, our selection committees are looking for special qualities in these students…the drive and perseverance to overcome difficult challenges, demonstrated leadership skills, and a willingness and commitment to help others. We are looking for that special student that every teacher, coach or mentor dream about. This year we have found twelve of them. Of those twelve, many are not only first-generation college students, they are first-generation Americans.


Daija Rogers Breland
Daija is a graduate of Berkeley High School. If you have been on that campus, it is like a small city. Outside of academics, Daija focused her energies on the competitive Cheer Team. She has been cheering since she was 8 years old, has been on the varsity team since her Sophomore year and served as Co-Captain in her Senior year. Her coach testifies to her supportive nature, enthusiasm, leadership skills, and determination, the very things you might expect in a lifelong cheer leader. In fact Daija has had her own struggles with her health and in the spirit of George Scotlan she had the determination to give back to her community by founding “Black Girls Rise” a club at Berkeley High that engages freshman through senior girls to provide a comfortable space amid the chaos of this huge school where black girls support one another, meet with successful black women in the community and build the self-confidence they will need to be successful during school and beyond. In addition to providing support, the club supports community service activities outside of school. Daija plans to study Public health at Cal State Northridge.

Samantha Ramirez
Samantha graduated from Lighthouse Community Charter where she scored a perfect academic record, an unweighted 4.0 grade point average. The accomplishment was not always easy for her, but in the words of her academic counselor, Samantha demonstrates that learning can be a joy. Although small, Lighthouse has been recognized by Innovate Public Schools as one of the highest performing Bay Area school for Title 1 Latino students. In fact, 8 of the top 10 Bay Area schools serving these students are Charters. Samantha personally entered the battle to protect successful Charters by volunteering in Antonio Villaraigosa’s campaign in an effort raise awareness of threats to her school and others. Last summer Samantha applied and was accepted to go to the Dominican Republic with Global Glimpse where she taught English to Haitian refugees. It was more than a glimpse for Samantha and reinforced her passionate commitment to quality education for all. She is now an Ambassador for Global Glimpse. This Fall, Samantha will enter UC Santa Barbara and hopes one day to pursue a career in international relations or international law.

Nate Wilson
Nate is a graduate of McClymonds High School and is one of our Scotlan Scholars. As most of you know, McClymonds is a small high school in West Oakland(about 250 students), best known for its football teams that won the Division 4 state title last year for the third year in a row and its famous African American graduates that include Bill Russell and Ray Carlisle. Like some of our other winners this year, Nate achieved a perfect academic record and graduated first in his class, gave the speech at graduation, and embraced his role supporting his classmates in their academic endeavors. While most students are focused heavily on their own passions and accomplishments, Nate is genuinely focused on improving those around him. In his essay, Nate wrote “I like to think that my most distinguishing characteristic is my ability to bring out the best in the people around me….In Oakland, many people have dreams that they don’t fully pursue because the environment around them is filled with more failure than hope. I understand the importance of having supportive people around me, and I try to be that for my peers.” Nate was a peer tutor in the Student Program for Athletic and Academic Transitioning at Mac. Two hours a day four days a week to keep athletes focused on their academics. . He volunteered his time with elders at the Health Coaching and Mentorship Program. Nate was an intern at Intel where he focused on the design of a device to detect concussions among athletes…alerting them to dangerous levels of impact. Nate is an ideal candidate for the Scotlan Scholarship which rewards community service. Next year he will be at Berkeley and plans to study economics.


Nicole Wang
Nicole graduated number one in her class of 383 students at Newark Memorial high school compiling a remarkable academic record that included 15 AP Classes. Her AP Calculus teacher ranked Nicole among the very top students in his 22 years of teaching. Her thirst for knowledge has a broad spectrum. Nicole’s AP History and AP Psychology teacher admitted that on occasion Nicole helped her with biology and statistics in her Psych class. She was quick to point out that Nicole was always kind and never arrogant…which is important for a teacher when they turn to their students for help. The brilliance of her academic credentials makes it is easy to miss her many other activities as founder of the East Asian Student Union, member of the Rocketry Club, intern with California Assemblymember Bill Quirk, tutor to academically challenged grade school children at the Summer Math Academy, leader in her school’s cultural week and much more. Nicole has been accepted to Cal’s College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Her goal is to work on incorporating artificial intelligence in to health informatics systems. I have no opinion about the artificial kind, but I have great confidence in Nicole’s intelligence.

Anthony Carter
Anthony is another graduate of Berkeley high school where he attended the small school of Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS). Anthony grew up in a family with seven siblings in two different households with a mother who works the swing shift. He has had more than his share of challenges during his high school years but through it all has maintained his commitment to academic work and support of his fellow students. His history teacher Bill Pratt commented about the CAS program, “we must have young people who are deeply engaged not only in their own learning and also in the welfare of their classmates, who come from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and possess widely varied academic skills. Anthony has been perhaps the most essential member of his cohort in this regard. He has done consistently excellent academic work while being incredibly generous to and supportive of other students, who gravitate toward him because of his keen intelligence his patience, and his willingness to help….. He hasn’t just been a role model for other students in a close-knit cohort of 60 and our small learning community, he’s also been a mentor and tutor whose support has made a notable difference for his classmates.” Anthony credits much of his strength and discipline to his career in sports. He has been a martial arts athlete since he was seven years old and earned his black belt at the age of 14. He has been a three sport athlete throughout high school enduring injuries without complaint and continuing to support his mother with household responsibilities. “I struggled and my family has struggled but that’s only made me stronger” all the struggle has paid off for Anthony he has been accepted to attend UC Berkeley in the fall where he plans to study Computer Engineering and Science.


Christopher Gonzalez
Christopher could not be here today because he is on a long planned Boy Scout boat trip. But his parents are here and they are an essential part of Christopher’s success. Christopher graduated from Granada high school in Livermore with an academic record just shy of perfect and including 16 AP classes. Christopher is an Eagle Scout. His Eagle troop leader who wrote a letter of recommendation gave Chris this compliment. “It is unfortunate that Chris is planning to go away for college. If not I would be hiring him to work for me as our janitor”. Chris is headed to the Wharton school at Penn and all I can say is if his troop leader has janitors of this quality it must be an extraordinary company. Chris was founding member and President of the Jefferson Awards service club where he has a long list of community service activities. Chris earned the Top Scholar award and Student Athlete Scholar award at his high school; he was Captain of the swim team and Financial Manager for the DECA club which is the business club on campus. Chris aspires to enter the business world. At Wharton he plans to study economics with a concentration in business economics and public policy. In short Chris aspires to become a taxpayer which places him in rare company indeed for someone his age. In his essay he gives credit to his parents “my parents are my greatest educators and supporters. They taught me that education would be by best inheritance of life.” I’m very happy to have his parents here so that we can recognize their contributions to this extraordinary Nahas scholar.

Samantha Kwan
Samantha graduated from Livermore high school and what an academic career she has had, it was perfect. Samantha is another of our “Renaissance women”. Her science teacher wrote “Samantha’s academic and extracurricular contributions are not limited to science. She has earned Academic Athlete awards, been on the Honor Role throughout high school, won first place in the Team Poet of the Month contest, second place in the American Legion Oratorical competition, plays on the premier division of the Livermore Fusion Soccer Club, played on the Livermore High NCS winning girls soccer team for four years, is a certified soccer referee, competes with the Livermore High varsity swim team, and is a section leader in the Marching Band.” It is no surprise that her science teacher went on to say that “Samantha is a joy to see in class every day”. Samantha’s interest is in STEM studies. She has served as a judge for the annual Livermore Valley Science Odyssey, and was President of the Chemistry Club this past year. Incredible. The only negative is that next year she will be at Berkeley instead of Stanford. She plans to study Material Science and Engineering.

Annina Jordan
Annina has a passion and it is the environment. Inspired by a family tradition of embracing wild places, Annina has a singular focus on the importance of protecting the planet. At Encinal High School she founded the Outdoors Club to share her love of the high country with peers that had never seen snow, experienced white water, or engaged the natural world. Committed to engaging Alameda high school students in sustainability programs she helped organize and promote Alameda’s first Youth Sustainability Festival, helped develop the story line and content for a video giving voice to students environmental concerns, and is now working on the city’s Climate Action Plan. She has done all of this while maintaining a 4.4 grade point average and playing soccer at a high level throughout her high school career. Two knee surgeries during her senior year, opened up her schedule a bit to focus on her passion which she will pursue studying environmental engineering at Davis.

Andrea Zak-Lee
Andrea graduated from the health academy at Oakland Technical High school. Andrea’s essay is to the point…It starts with “ My name is Andrea Zak-Lee” next paragraph “One thing you should know about me is my passion for medicine.” two paragraphs and “Another thing you should know about me is my love for sports.” Each paragraph followed by convincing evidence from her internship in the emergency room at Highland Hospital to her nomination for US Lacrosse All-Academic and All-American and her first team selection in the Oakland Athletic League for soccer. Andrea clearly had a special relationship with her math teacher who said “Andrea first caught my attention with her loud and boisterous behavior…she keeps her peers and myself awake and engaged with her general rambunctiousness. She constantly corrects my mistakes. She has the bravado of a bull rider and the fierceness of a bulldog.” Andrea uses that infectious energy to coach for Oakland Lacrosse Club and Soccer without Borders which is used as a vehicle to provide under-served refuge children with a welcoming community. She teaches technical skills, teamwork, and how to develop mental fortitude. She is a qualified for that. Next year Andrea will be studying Molecular and Cell Biology at Berkeley.

Michael Chen
Michael’s English teacher and it sounds like much of the school are promoting his candidacy for 2036. Why not? Michael has already been president of his DECA Club, Encinal Red Cross Club and Red Cross Youth Board, Captain of the Varsity Cross County and Track teams for 3 years, and valedictorian of his class at Encinal High School, and Michael is going to Yale the training camp for the White House. Michael is a first generation, ELA student, who helps his parents on weekends in their flea market business, and he claims to have no such political ambitions. Michael is focused on the world of business and how it impacts the local community. He and his student partner won first place in the DECA FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing) for their business plan for Eco-Animals, a start-up whose first product is an eco-friendly and fashionable dog collar that repels fleas. If you google DECA-FIDM Challenge, you can listen to Michael and his business partner convince you that their product will make the world safer for you and your dog. For, me, I take great satisfaction that the Coliseum Scholarship program has had the opportunity to help Michael achieve his educational goals.


Sierra Van Rossem
Sierra is a graduate of Newark Memorial High School. I’d like to read an excerpt of her letter of recommendation by her school’s assistant principal “Sierras high school record reads like an entry in “Who’s Who in American High Schools”. Academically, she has above a 4.0,…. This year, she participated in the Ohlone Connections program, completing her senior year on the Ohlone College campus. She still came to Newark Memorial High School every morning at 6:50 AM to participate in Leadership and carry out her role as the elected ASB President. Athletically, Sierra has been an outstanding competitor in both water Polo and wrestling, earning all-league and North Coast Sectional awards in both. This year and last, Sierra qualified for the state wrestling meet. Sierra has been repeatedly elected by her peers and has served on the Newark Unified School District governing Board from 2016 to 2019 and was featured on local television is the youngest School Board Member ever.” For three years every Saturday Sierra prepared breakfast and supported health Fellowship with the homeless community at Second Chance Shelter. Her interest in serving those less fortunate extends to her plans next year at Menlo College where, in addition to a fine wrestling program, they have agreed to design an internship for Sierra at the UN. In her words…”to live a life to serve others, is the only way to fully live”. And, if you don’t agree, she will pin you to the floor.

Allen Huynh
Allen is a graduate of Skyline High School. He graduated 3rd in a class of 380. He is one of our many first generation students. Allen’s parents emigrated here from Vietnam. Allen’s essay documents their hard work and sacrifice to provide him and his sister the education and instill values they will need to be successful in this country and by all accounts they have succeeded with Allen. In addition to his academic excellence, Alan is a varsity football player and Captain of the throwing sports on the track team. He served in student government and was a member of the Student Conservation Association. His recommendation letters focused on the Allen’s leadership and selflessness in dealing with his peers. His track coach recalled an incident that says a lot about Allen’s character. “When Allen’s top competitor from a rival school asked to train with us because the team no longer had a throws coach, Allen presented this to his fellow track captains. Allen convinced his teammates the right thing to do is to let the other athlete train with our team because it was unfair what this fellow thrower and Oakland athlete was facing and that our team could and should open up to make this one student’s experience with our sport better.” Sportsmanship on the athletic field is an indication of maturity and a reflection of our sensitivity to the struggles of others. This fall Allen will be attending Berkeley and intends to major in economics and business administration.