Nearly 70% of scholars are first-generation college students

August 3, 2022 – San Diego, CASan Diego Foundation awarded $3.5 million in scholarships to 983 local college students at its annual Community Scholarships Program awards ceremony on July 30. Scholarship recipients, their loved ones, and San Diego Foundation donors and volunteers convened at the San Diego Zoo to celebrate another record-breaking year and honor the next generation of San Diego leaders. 

The Community Scholarships Program helps foster equity of opportunity for San Diegans, a priority of the San Diego Foundation Strategic Plan. Investing in local students is one of the most advantageous ways to advance equity in the region and increase access and resources for San Diegans facing barriers to realizing full and healthy lives.

“Students of color from low-income communities face unique challenges and many do not have the support and access to resources or money they need to pursue a higher education,” said Danielle Valenciano, Director of Community Scholarships at San Diego Foundation. “These scholarships allow us to directly support college students, so they can spend less time working, incur less debt and dedicate themselves to focus on what matters most – obtaining their degree.”

Historically, Black, Latinx and low-income students continue to be underrepresented in higher education. Among the 2022 – 2023 scholarship recipients, 69% are first-generation college students, or the first in their immediate families to pursue a higher education, and 93% of students who are considered low-income, according to their Earned Family Contribution data. 

Applications were submitted by more than 16,000 local high school, community college, graduate and adult re-entry students studying a variety of subjects, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); health sciences; business; and arts and education, among others. More than 50% of those who applied were affiliated with a college access and readiness program such as AVID, Reality Changers and TRIO/Upward Bound.

“As a low-income student, affording college was something that was always on my mind,” said Meliya Russom, scholarship recipient and incoming freshman at University of California Los Angeles. “Early on in high school, I promised myself that I wouldn’t have my parents carry the financial burden of paying for my education, and the San Diego Foundation has helped me keep this promise.”

The Community Scholarships Program is made possible through the generous support of 146 unique charitable scholarship funds at San Diego Foundation established by local donors. As the largest scholarship program in the region, outside of the university system, San Diego Foundation has awarded $40 million to more than 10,000 college students since 1997. To learn more about opening a scholarship fund, visit

About San Diego Foundation

San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Our strategic priorities include advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities, and delivering world-class philanthropy to realize our vision of just, equitable and resilient communities. For more than 47 years, SDF and its donors have granted more than $1.3 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community. Learn more at


Daniella Rodiles, Mixte Communications,, (619) 732-0789 ext. 326