2019 Scholarship winners: Sydney Ochoa, University of San Francisco; Jocelyn Jensen, Cal State East Bay; Rebecca Ajuonuma, Golden Gate University; Joseph Sandoval-Rios, San Jose State University; and Alison McLaughlin, Santa Clara University
Five Bay Area college/university students were honored with a total of $10,000 in scholarships at the PR Round Table’s April 23, 2019, meeting, held at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. They are a hardworking and accomplished group, with strong academic records and impressive internships or leadership positions under their belts. They have overcome hardships, financial and otherwise, and in at least one case, are the first in their family to attend college. Four are undergraduates or graduating with a bachelor’s this year, while one is finishing up grad school.
To be eligible for the Scholarship Program, students have to be enrolled in a college or university within the Bay Area’s sphere of influence, in a public relations, journalism, communications, media studies, marketing or other related program, and they must have earned a 3.5 or higher GPA. Both undergraduate and graduate students are considered.
This year we received 25 applications and narrowed the field to seven finalists who each underwent an interview. We selected five students as winners this year based on their applications, interviews, recommendations and writing samples. The students’ understanding of the PR profession, volunteer/work experience and commitment to the field also factored into our decisions.
Each of our five winners will receive a scholarship in the amount of $2,000. Students can use the funds for such purposes as paying their educational costs, financing relevant abroad programs, repaying loans, attending conferences or covering living expenses while they take on internships. This year we are offering scholarship winners a pass to our Member Mixer in June. All winners also will receive a free membership in the PR Round Table for the remainder of 2019.
The bulk of financial support for the Scholarship Program comes from the auction at the organization’s annual gala, with a portion coming from private donations and luncheon fees. See our sponsors here.
Following are bios of our five 2019 scholarship winners:
Rebbecca (Becky) Ajuonuma is a second-year graduate student at Golden Gate University working on her master’s in integrated marketing communications with a PR concentration. An international student from Nigeria, Becky has been largely self-supporting since starting graduate school and has made the Dean’s List every semester at GGU. She has been working this year at an internship at Current Marketing, a Weber Shandwick sister agency. The scholarship will help ease the burden of tuition and enable her to invest in career-enhancing PR conferences and events and memberships. Per her application, she hopes to eventually return to her home country and work with nonprofit organizations dedicated to women’s education and empowerment, with the goal of teaching the upcoming generation of women to be resourceful and financially independent. Per GGU Adjunct Professor Jay Rooney (a PRRT Board member), “Even amongst my best students, Becky is exceptionally talented and hard-working.”
Jocelyn Jensen is a graduating senior at Cal State East Bay, majoring in communications. Not only is she a re-entry student who took time off from college to raise her daughter, but also she is graduating on the same day that her daughter graduates from UC Berkeley. Jocelyn is serving as 2018-19 president of the campus chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, where she has grown the membership substantially, and has been a contributor to the campus newspaper. As her professor wrote in his letter of recommendation, “She demonstrates the rhetorical savvy, critical awareness, dedication and motivation needed to be a successful professional in the field of public relations.” The scholarship would help alleviate money worries since she is unable to work while taking five classes in her last semester.
Alison McLaughlin is a senior at Santa Clara University, with a double major in communication and psychology. She has been on the Dean’s List all four years, among other honors earned while at college. Alison has shown an interest in applying her academics and skills to law enforcement, having worked as a cadet for the San Francisco Police Department, where she helped create bridges between the community and law enforcement by volunteering for events where she could interact with community members. She also has worked as an Honors Intern with the FBI, and has been volunteering with the Victim Services Division of the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. “My volunteerism in a variety of milieus and my work alongside police officers and federal agents have given me a unique perspective and appreciation for the power of communicating to improve relationships and lives,” she wrote in her application.
Sydney Ochoa is a senior majoring in communications studies with a minor in advertising at the University of San Francisco. She currently works as a media relations intern at USF’s Office of Marketing and Communications, and previously worked as a social media intern and brand media assistant at Ancestry. On top of these internships, she has been active in campus organizations, currently serving as president of the Lambda Pi Eta Communications Honor Society, while earning a spot on the Dean’s Honor Roll all four years at USF. She intends to use her scholarship money to help offset living costs as she undertakes an internship at a PR agency in San Francisco this summer, and to help pay off the interest on her student loans. “Sydney is an extremely engaged student,” her professor wrote, “and I have no doubt that she brings the same level of engagement and enthusiasm to her public relations positions, which is why she has already developed an impressive background in the area.”
Joseph Sandoval-Rios is a senior at San Jose State University studying public relations and event management. The first in his family to attend college, Joseph has been deeply involved in campus life, current serving as residential advisor and community relations intern for University Housing Services, and serving as chair of the Student Union Board of Directors and as chief elections officer for the Associated Students Government at SJSU. Previously he served as vice president of his fraternity, president and CEO of the Residence Hall Association, and director of Faculty Affairs for the Associated Students of SJSU. He currently holds two paid off-campus positions, including as a PR/media consultant for Connext, a PR firm where he monitors news and social media outlets for Tesla. Joseph plans on pursuing a career in university student affairs and advocate for accessibility services in higher education. “I want to be able to go back to my community and share the importance of receiving a higher education,” he wrote in his application. He will use the scholarship money to assist with paying off his student loan debt, since he is self-supporting.