Avalon Student Overcomes Family’s Financial Setback to Head to College

A $40,000 Edison Scholars award allows Michaela Edwards to pursue her lifelong interest in the environment.

April 27, 2015 | By Mary Ann Milbourn

2014 Community Investment Annual Report

Michaela Edwards will be the first to tell you she lived an idyllic childhood her first few years growing up on Catalina Island. But the recession in 2008 ended that.

Her father’s construction business slowed. Her mother lost her job and her parents were forced to sell their home — the house Michaela grew up in. The economic uncertainty that followed cast a shadow over her plans to go to college to pursue environmental studies, her passion.

But Michaela put those worries aside during a recent Avalon School sports assembly. As the school band’s drummer, she was asked before the assembly to be ready to play a drum roll prelude for “an announcement about an important student award.”

On cue, Michaela played the drum roll, but to her surprise, it ended up being for herself as she learned she was the one who won the award — a $40,000 Edison Scholars college scholarship.

“I’m in awe,” said Michaela, after being presented with the oversized $40,000 check to the cheers of her classmates, teachers and parents.

The scholarship was one of 30 given to high school seniors this year by Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE). Edison awards the scholarships to minority, low-income and underrepresented Southern California students to help them pay for college in the STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) fields.

Michaela said the scholarship, which will be paid over four years, will make it easier to attend the college of her choice, the University of San Francisco.

“It will mean a lot to me because I decided to go to a school that’s a private school and a little pricier than my other options,” she said. “But I knew the choice would get me on the path to pursue my career.”

Michaela hopes to go into environmental law or environmental policy.

“I would like to maybe do some nonprofit work or come back here to my island community,” she said. “A lot could be done regarding the environment on our island.”

Michaela’s mother, Katalina Vargas Edwards, was as surprised as her daughter at the announcement.  Michael’s mother and father had been told to go to the school assembly, but not why.

Ron Garcia, the SCE Local Public Affairs region manager who presented the check, said he was worried that because the island is so small — about 4,000 people — that the surprise would get out. So he only told four people about the scholarship announcement.

“It was the best-kept secret on an island where if anyone knows anything, everyone knows everything,” he said.

Katalina said she was especially pleased by the reaction to the announcement by Michaela’s classmates and the school staff.

“I turned and looked around and every teacher in the assembly cried,” she said.

Michaela said her scholarship should encourage anyone who has faced adversity.

“There’s always a possibility that anything can happen,” she said. “Just keep working hard.”





2014 Community Investment Annual Report

Topics: People