EL CAJON Spring Valley resident Jasaun Neff, a 4.0 student at Cuyamaca College, is one of three students awarded the Jonnah LaRoche Memorial Scholarship from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, a statewide faculty organization.
The scholarship, named after a past president of the Academic Senate, is awarded annually to two continuing community college students and one student transferring from a community college to a four-year institution. Neff, 23, who plans to move on to UCLA next fall as a history major, received the $500 scholarship as the winning transfer student.
The academic senate of each college nominates two students with grade-point averages of at least 3.0 from groups historically underrepresented in higher education: ethnic minorities, women and persons with disabilities. Nominees submit a 300-word essay that includes their educational and career goals.
Dr. Geraldine M. Perri, Cuyamaca College president, said Neff represents the many students who have propelled their success at Cuyamaca to future achievements at the university level. She said the combination of strong academic programs and support services is a key ingredient in student success.
“Jasaun Neff is a fine reflection of Cuyamaca as an excellent starting point for a university degree,” she said.
Academic Senate President Pat Setzer announced Neff’s award at this week’s district governing board meeting.
“He has been in two of my music history classes and he was always well-prepared, skilled at critical thinking and an all-around excellent student,” said Setzer, a music instructor. “In particular, he is an exceptionally good writer.”
Neff, who aspires to become a high school history teacher, is the first student from the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to receive the memorial scholarship since the award’s inception in 1995.
A former Morse High School student who graduated from Monte Vista High after his family relocated to Spring Valley, Neff enrolled at Cuyamaca in 2001. He began college after his discharge from a four-year stint in the Army, where he reached the rank of sergeant at the unusually young age of 20.
It was during his military service that Neff was inspired to pursue teaching as a career.
“I spent a year in Korea and took a field trip to the Korean War Museum, “ he said. “I always had been taught that our involvement in Korea was a for a noble cause fighting communism, but the visit to the museum in Seoul taught me that it was infinitely more complex than the ‘good versus evil’ way that it had been presented to me.
“It made me realize that history depends on perspective and that the history I learned is from a very Eurocentric point of view. That’s why I want to return to Southeast San Diego to teach history. I want kids to know there’s more than one perspective and more than one version of history.”