Young Life Scholarship recipients Joseph Helm and Luke Perez with Westmont vice president Irene Neller.

Young Life Scholarship recipients Joseph Helm and Luke Perez with Westmont vice president Irene Neller. (Courtesy photo)

Luke Perez of Santa Maria and Joseph Helm of Palm Desert, who had both planned to attend a community college, will begin at Westmont College this fall after receiving Westmont’s 2019 Young Life Scholarships.

The full scholarships, a combination of efforts by Westmont and Young Life Southwestern Division, cover the cost of tuition, room and board. The award recognizes the student’s involvement and leadership in their local Young Life chapters. As award recipients, they commit to serving the Santa Barbara Young Life program.

Young Life directors from the West Coast region are involved in recommending potential recipients for consideration. Each year, two recipients will be selected and the scholarship will cover their four-year tuition, room and board costs.

Irene Neller, Westmont vice president for enrollment, marketing and college communications, has been involved since the program began in 2018 and works with Young Life to select the candidates.

“Luke was selected because he impressed us with his perseverance and the way he approached his goal to go to college,” she said.

Perez, whose father died at a young age, has been working to augment his mother’s income and remained diligent with his studies and activities with Young Life.

“He gives 100 percent to his commitments no matter how difficult they are to pursue,” Neller said. “He’s gregarious, personable and accepts challenges as opportunities that will help him build character. He’s also an outstanding student, and his references praise his dedication to his studies and his work ethic.”

“I’m looking forward to making a positive impact on Westmont’s campus and to start meeting my fellow classmates and professors,” said Perez, a business and economics major. “I was completely stunned when I received the call offering me the scholarship. It’s a dream come true.”

Helm also thought that attending a college like Westmont wouldn’t be possible.

“Joseph impressed us with his tenacity to keep his aspirations to go to college alive despite the cost of attending a four-year institution,” Neller said. “He is independent and self-reliant, overcoming the challenges of work and life while trying to put himself through high school.

“His days began before sunrise and he worked into the evenings, riding his bike to and from various commitments, and he rose above the external daily hardships, keeping his eye on his goal of attaining a college degree.

“He accepts what is before him with a deep, joyful attitude, and he truly has a spirit about him that brings others to admire his grateful heart. He is a model of resiliency.”

Helm, who has not officially chosen a major, is interested in studying political science. “I am most looking forward to growing my faith at Westmont, and of course living by the beach,” he said.

Both students said they look forward to arriving at Westmont and thriving in the college’s residential, faith-based programs that offer opportunities to connect with a like-minded community.

Recipients of the award must be high school seniors attending a school in the Southwestern Young Life Division (Hawaii, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas), meet Westmont’s admissions requirements, and show an interest in continuing to work with Young Life during and after their time at Westmont.

— Scott Craig for Westmont College.