Alaina Schofield was not expecting to win the scholarship of a lifetime when she had applied for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship during her sophomore year at Las Positas College. But as fate would have it, she became one out of 73 students from around the country to receive such an award.
With her scholarship funds, Schofield was able to attend the college of her dreams, UC Berkeley, without the stress of having to worry about the cost of education or living expenses. According to Schofield, her experiences and support system from Las Positas were greatly influential to her current success.
“It pretty much pays for her college for the rest of the time,” said Director of Student Life, Cynthia Ross.
The JKC Foundation offers numbers of scholarships every year to outstanding students across the country. At the community college level, the foundation offers scholarships for up to $30,000 to undergraduate transfer students. Many apply but only a select few are fortunate enough to receive this award.
Ross had encouraged Schofield to apply for the scholarship and was also the first person to be notified of her award during the spring 2013 semester.
“When Cynthia called me I think I was crying for two hours. I was hyperventilating. I was so emotional,” Schofield said.
Originally from Las Vegas, Schofield had moved to Dublin to live with her older sister Nicole, while her mom remained in Nevada. She was sixteen at the time and had just experienced the loss of her sister Jess. She had previously lost her father as well.
“It was just my mom and I. It was just rough. So my sister became my legal guardian, and I got to finish high school and have a stable house life,” Schofield said.
During high school Schofield was still unsure of her future plans and was not set on whether or not she would attend college. After graduating she enrolled at Las Positas College as a political science major.
She became apart of the honors program at LPC and was also apart of dance, which is now her minor at UC Berkeley. She also had served briefly on the student senate as the Director of Legislation and as an officer for the Gay-Straight Alliance club.
“I was always impressed with not only her inner beauty but also her talent and her philosophy on life and her caring nature. She was just a wonderful young woman,” Ross said.
Although she appeared as a shoo-in for success, Schofield’s triumphs were not without obstacles to overcome. During her freshman year at Las Positas she received a phone call that would turn her world upside down and make her question whether or not she would complete her schooling.
“I think it was about a week before midterms. And my mom ended up committing suicide. I found out at school over the phone, and it was just as you can imagine. It shook my whole world. I didn’t really know what I was going to do,” Schofield said.
Schofield turned to political science professor Paul Torres to discuss her options. She knew that quitting school was not an option. She needed it to survive and keep herself focused and balanced.
“It was unfortunate the way it happened,” Torres said.
Torres had offered to delay the mid term and had even offered Schofield a late-drop.
“I really appreciated the support. He was very understanding,” she said.
Schofield had only missed about a week of classes during that time before she returned and completed her midterms and made up her classes.
“I think up until that point she had been a very strong student,” Torres said. “When she came back she was very different. You could tell it was affecting her. But academically she didn’t slow down. I’ve never seen a person so mentally and emotionally tough.”
Schofield’s adrenaline rush had surprised herself.
“I don’t know how I did that. But I guess I had really pulled some inner strength out of wherever it came from. I was definitely a fight or flight moment,” she said.
Schofield had eventually hit a plateau and felt the need to recharge her batteries. She took the spring 2012 semester off to travel to Pokhara, Nepal and worked at an orphanage for two months. When she returned from Nepal she felt invigorated and had improved in school both academically and emotionally. She had even done an honors project on globalization for faculty member Dr. TeriAnn Bengiveno.
“Even now I still go back to her Women’s Studies classes with my friend (Mina) who was there too, and we present on the issues that we observed there and our travels,” said Schofield.
In the present, Schofield is now situated at UC Berkeley where she is majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and minoring in Dance and Performance Studies.
There she has found her second college family and a new support system.
She is also the co-facilitator of the organization Queer Women at Berkeley, which acts as an open forum and support system for queer women on campus.
“Life at Berkeley is fantastic. I feel a sense of home here. I feel really relaxed in a way that I have never experienced before. I can really be myself,” Schofield said.
But she has never forgotten her experiences at Las Positas and still comes back to visit frequently.
“It was such a great environment to build a stable foundation to spring off of. I met so many great teachers. Some of them became mentors. I felt like I had a family at Last Positas. I felt challenged and pushed,” she said.
Her mentors of the school reciprocate the affection.
“She’s just resilient, brave and courageous for a young woman to experience the kind of loss that she has experienced and to have the world outlook that she does. She is just someone that I admire,” Dr. Bengiveno said.
“Here is a brilliant, compassionate, passionate young woman who is determined to change the world.”