2021 Scholarship Winners

In 2021, the Friends of Human Relations awarded a record $44,000 to assist twenty-two students as they transfer from a community college to a four year college or university and continue on to complete their undergraduate education.

The following twelve students are transferring from community colleges and received scholarships for their junior years:


HARUWA ABDUL-RAHMAN is the mother of two and a resident of San Jose, California. She is Ghanian by birth and American by naturalization. Haruwa immigrated from Ghana, Africa, in pursuit of better life, especially a higher education. She has served as a Sakamoto School Site Council Member and District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) member in the Oak Grove School District, as well as being involved in fundraising at her children’s school.  It has been a challenging journey of juggling with two children, schooling, and working part time, but she has earned an AA in Child and Adolescent Development and Early Childhood Education from San Jose City College and is transferring to San Jose State University. Haruwa hopes to obtain Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Adolescent Development, and go on to pursue a  Master’s in Counseling Education. She wants to help others see beyond the obstacles and realize their dreams.


RUTH AVILA was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States when she was sixteen years old pursuing her mom’s American dream: a better life for her and her three sisters. She faced severe financial barriers in pursuing a higher education. Though she has had many obstacles to overcome, with her perseverance she is now a student who is proud to be transferring from San Jose City College to San Jose State University. She is majoring in Business Administration with emphasis in accounting. She will continue to contribute to the quality of student life. Ruth’s professional goal is to be an accountant and entrepreneur. Her vision is to be recognized for excellence in the provision of upstanding service in helping her community.


MILAGRO RAMIREZ BARRERA was born and raised in San Jose, California. She was raised by four hard-working Salvadorans who immigrated to the United States. As a young girl, one of the events that shaped her was witnessing her parents’ failed attempts to save their foreclosed home. She became determined to learn about how she could help fight for her community. Despite some health implications, she was able to graduate from San Jose City College with honors. She plans to obtain a degree in Sociology and a minor in Disability Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She plans to use her degree to become an advocate for Latino rights in California.


VERONICA MENDOZA CARDENAS  grew up in a rural town in Mexico where the highest education offered was high school. Financial struggles prevented her from pursuing higher education. A family emergency required her to to move to the United States. Little did she knew that moving here would change her life for the better, opening opportunities to reach her goal of furthering her education. She finished high school and became a first generation student at Evergreen Valley College, where she was part of the Computer Science Club and an active volunteer at Loaves and Fishes family kitchen. Veronica is transferring to San Jose State University, seeking a degree in Computer Engineering. As a woman and student in Engineering, she envisions empowering women and helping inspire their interest in the STEM fields.


LEANDRA COUTO  is a first generation American and college student, born and raised in the Silicon Valley. Overcoming challenges with her family, homelessness, and abuse, Leandra still excelled in high school, determined to pursue her dreams. Leandra works hard to put herself through college; she is transferring to Santa Clara University, hoping to eventually earn her graduate degree. She aims to become an entrepreneur, a best selling author, and start her own nonprofit to provide assistance to those in need of resources. Outside of her school work, Leandra also volunteers with St. Vincent De Paul/St. Clare Parish, Yacanex Community, and has served on the Equal Educational Opportunity Diversity and Advisory Council, as well as the Hiring Committee at Mission College. It is her goal to create changes toward human rights, inclusiveness, poverty alleviation, and the right of us all to feel secure in our communities.

JENY CUEVAS – Biography and photo coming soon.


KEVIN ESPINO  is from El Salvador, He is transferring from San Jose City College  to the University of California Santa Barbara where he will major in sociology. After graduation, Kevin plans to attend law school to become an immigration lawyer.




RAVEN HAYES graduated with her Associate’s Degree from Foothill College and is transferring to  Florida A&M University. She is majoring in psychology with future plans to go into the medical field.




VIRGINIA HENDERSEN grew up in Morgan Hill, California before moving to China at the age of 20 to study Mandarin. She ended up staying and working with women from backgrounds of extreme poverty, helping them to find jobs and gain career skills.  After 12 years in China she moved to Thailand, working for three years for a non-profit targeting community development across Asia. Three years ago Virginia moved back to the Bay Area with her husband and three sons to pursue a degree. She received an AS in Business Administration from Gavilan College and is transferring to San Jose State University to pursue a degree in Economics. She would like to go on to graduate school and either work in Economic research and policy making or International Development.


DANIELA MARGARITO LOPEZ was born in Oaxaca, Mexico but was raised in San Jose, California. She is the oldest child of five. She is the first in her family to have graduated from high school and the first to attend college. Although Daniela has faced some hardships in life, she refuses to let those hardships define her. After two years at San Jose City College, Daniela is transferring to the University of California, Irvine. While at San Jose City College, she received an Associate Degree for Transfer in Sociology. Majoring in Sociology, she will return to her community to help address the needs of her community.

YESSICA SANTOS – Biography and photo coming soon.

MUHAMMED TOURAY was born and raised in the Gambia. He moved to the United States in 2016. Mohammed was the first person from his family to receive the opportunity to attend college. He worked full time while attending college full-time. Muhammed is graduating from San Jose City College with an Associate’s degree in social science and behavior science and transferring to San Jose State University.


The following ten students received second year scholarships in June 2021 for their senior year of college:


ERENDIRA AMADOR was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States at the age of four with her mother and sister so that they could reunite with their father and receive professional medical care. Erendira is now 28, a mother of three children, and a first generation college student. She has overcome many obstacles, working multiple jobs, taking extra units, and volunteering in her son’s class. Erendira is attending San Jose State, majoring in Business Administration.


JENNIFER BERBERIAN is from San Jose, California. She lives with her two daughters and their cat. Jennifer has faced some hardships in life, but she refuses to let those hardships define her. Jennifer made the choice to go to college five years ago. Since then, she graduated from Gavilan College with a high GPA and an associate degree in liberal arts- behavioral social science. Jennifer has just completed her junior year at California State University Monterey Bay. Jennifer’s educational goals are to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services with an emphasis in social work. After she receives her bachelor’s degree, she plans to attend graduate school at CSUMB to obtain a master’s degree in social work. When Jennifer finishes college she would like to work as a social worker in the field of family and children’s services, and eventually she would like to be a family therapist.


ABDALLAH HADDAD was born in New Dehli, India, and moved to America at a young age with dreams of becoming a pilot. While that dream never took off, he worked hard to support his family through poverty, eventually returning to college at 25 and is now attending San Jose State University with a major in Business Analytics and a passion for helping other workers in poverty attain stability and success with communal support across Silicon Valley.


LORI HAYES was born in Amarillo, Texas. She was raised in Hollister, California. At the age of twenty she was a single mother, and was diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm. After she nearly lost her life, she was more motivated than ever to pursue her education and earn her degree. She graduated from Gavilan Community College and has since completed her junior year at California State University Fresno. She is studying Health Science Administration with a career goal of becoming a Hospital Department Manager.


CHELSIE MARTINEZ was born in San Jose, California. Throughout her academic career, she has had to adapt to her learning disability by receiving help with educational resources. It was very hard for her to receive accommodations at first because her parents are undocumented and many did not want to help them or give them resources. This is where Chelsie learned to advocate for herself because she saw the injustice and inhuman treatment her parents were receiving. She volunteered in the program Peer Court with the Santa Clara County Probation Department where she learned to advocate for juveniles in giving them restorative justice to return back into the community. She also volunteered for the Student Equity and Success Committee at Mission College where Chelsie advocated for student help, equity, and resources. Chelsie graduated from Mission College is now attending her dream school, Santa Clara University. She is majoring in political science and working with the university to transfer into the Santa Clara University School of Law. Chelsie plans on becoming a lawyer where she wishes to advocate for those whom the system has treated unfairly.


ESTEFANY MEZA was born and raised in San Jose, California. She was raised by hardworking immigrant parents and is the oldest child of four. As a first-generation college student, she faced several financial barriers to pursuing higher education. While at San José City College, she participated in the Pathway to Law School Program and the Honors Program and received an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) in Political Science. She has been an active volunteer in her community as well as an immigration intern at a non-profit organization in East San Jose. Estefany isn now attending Santa Clara University, majoring in Political Science.Her career goal is to become an attorney because as a current immigration intern she found how vital it is to support those who may find it difficult to receive equal opportunities within the legal system.


KIANA RICHARDSON was born and raised in Hayward, California. She has faced much adversity as a young African American living in a low-income family. She and her five siblings were raised by a single mother who held two jobs and attended a University full time. At San Jose City College Kiana was the founder and then President of the Black Student Union, which advocates for social justice. She volunteered with the African American Community Service Agency in San Jose as a youth mentor. Kiana is now attending Howard University, a historically black college. Through her education, she plans to advocate for marginalized communities, making a positive impact


JORDANE ROBARGE was born and raised in Morgan Hill, California. She is a single mother who decided to return to Gavilan College after an absence of three-years in order to provide a stable future for her child and herself. At Gavilan, Jordane was a peer mentor and enjoyed helping students transition to college and reach their full potential. She is also a person in long-term recovery who aspires to be a role model for her young son. She volunteers at Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services where she speaks with expectant mothers struggling with substance abuse. She now attends UC Santa Cruz and expects to graduate in 2022 with a BA in sociology. She will then transition into a graduate program, possibly social work.


 MIGUEL LIRA ROMO was born in Leon, Guanajuato from Mexico. Determined to escape the poor living conditions and fight for a brighter future, his parents, along with himself, immigrated to the United States regardless of the circumstances ahead. Raised in the city of San Jose of California, Miguel, along with his family faced various socioeconomic and personal challenges. Determined to break the chains of struggle, Miguel was driven to become successful throughout his academic journey. After high school, Miguel went to De Anza College to pursue political science and become involved in community organizing. He has worked with various organizations that are committed to fight for immigrant rights and justice such as SIREN, HEFAS and currently with Human Agenda. After two years at De Anza College, Miguel transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the long term, Miguel plans to be a committed organizer and entrepreneur for his community. In addition, Miguel plans to go to law school and become an immigration attorney in order to fight for the needs of the community.


VIRGINIA VARELA was born and raised in San Jose, California. She experienced many challenges throughout her life but did not want to lose sight of her dream. After having to drop out of college because of a violent relationship, her dreams of college and pursuing her passion began fading away. Many years later and after having four children she made the decision to return to college with her dream still in mind. Only this time she returned with a greater passion and motivation. She has become a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Santa Clara County, works part-time at Stanford Hospital, and is a first-generation college student. She is motivated more than ever to prove her success after having to deal with so many obstacles. Virginia graduated from Mission College and is continuing her education at San Jose State University. Majoring in Sociology she will be able to give back to the community and be a voice to the voiceless. She plans on becoming a social worker.

Go back to 2020 Scholarship Recipients