Coming from a low-income household, Meliya Russom grew up with the thought of affording college always on her mind.

Russom is currently a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles. Though, she says, she couldn’t have made it to this point without support.

“One of the main concerns I had going to college was how I was going to pay for it,” she said.

She never wanted to turn to her family for financial help to get through college, so she sought out scholarships at San Diego Foundation (SDF) to help make her education possible.

Breaking Down Barriers

Historically, Black, Latinx and low-income students are underrepresented in college.

Last year, San Diego Foundation awarded $3.5 million in scholarships to 989 students in the community. Of those, 93% of them came from low-middle-income households and 69% of those students are first-generation college students – including Russom.

“Having this scholarship has allowed me to just focus completely on my studies without having to worry about how I’m going to pay for my education,” she said.

The Community Scholarship Program provides need-based support, assists students on their journey to a degree and helps foster equity of opportunity in San Diego. It’s an important part of the San Diego Foundation Strategic Plan. It’s vital to invest in local students to advance equity in the region and improve quality of life for all San Diegans.

Community Support

Russom is part of Project Ready with Urban League of San Diego County. She credits for the program for many benefits in her academic life.

“This program is what pushed me to apply for this (SDF) scholarship,” Russom said. “I think it’s really amazing because I got to meet a lot of other students and see where they’re going in their educational journeys.”

She also emphasized the gratitude for the mentors the program provided her. It was through their help she was able to get questions answered, and ease through the anxiety and stress that come with starting a new chapter of education.

Looking to the Future

Meliya Russom speaking

As a Labor Studies major, Russom is working towards her dreams of changing the workforce through a career in human resources.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she recognized the rise in unemployment rates and lack of job security – and wanted to be a part of the solution. After college, she hopes to be an advocate for workers and expand their rights within the workplace.

But for now, she’s thankful for the help she’s received on her journey to that next step. Scholarships like hers, she said, changed her life in ways she couldn’t fathom.

“Pushing myself to apply opened up opportunities for me,” said Russom. “It can change lives like it did mine.”

Learn more about the Community Scholarships Program and how it makes an impact on students’ lives across the San Diego region.

The program is accepting applications for the 2023 – 2024 Common Scholarship Application through March 8, 2023. In just one application, our Common Scholarship Application provides students access to more than 100 scholarship opportunities with awards ranging from $1,000 to more than $5,000. Some scholarships can be renewed for multiple years to help offset the financial burden for a student’s entire undergraduate career.

Students can apply online at