Kiwanis Announces Eight 2020 Scholarship Winners


Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

In normal times, as the school year approached its end, outstanding seniors would be looking ahead to the Senior Recognition Ceremony, where the winners of scholarships would be announced.

This year, however, the lethal coronavirus has changed that long-established custom. The schools are closed, and everyone is being urged to “stay at home” in an effort to slow or halt the march of a killer pandemic.

And so, today, Kiwanis is announcing the eight winners of the scholarships it administers—instead of waiting for an assembly that probably won’t ever be held.

The winners this year are:

  • Dimitri Lopez, winner of the Jeannette O. Wallace Memorial Scholarship; 
  • Sofya Svyatskaya, winner of the Lee and Lou Pierotti Memorial Scholarship and a Kiwanis Scholarship; 
  • Alyssa Parker, winner of a Stephen Stoddard Memorial Scholarship; 
  • Sophie Schmidt, winner of a Stephen Stoddard Memorial Scholarship;

  • Emily Holmes, winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship;

  • Sarah M. Crotzer, winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship;

  • Elise Olivas, winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship; 
  • And Javier Duarte-Gastelum, winner of a Kiwanis Vocational Scholarship.

The Committee Members
The chairman of the 2020 Kiwanis Scholarship Committee, Dennis Gill, said that the 11 members of this year’s selection committee are: 

Kathy Boerigter, Don Casperson, Paul Cunningham, Cindy Eaton, Gill himself, Betsy Hemphill, Deb Huling, Morrie Pongratz, Jane Roberson, Don Siebe, and Roger Stutz.

The committee members spent many hours working through the piles of information provided by the applicants. It’s never an easy task. As Gill pointed out, virtually all of the applicants are outstanding students who really deserve scholarships.

Types of Scholarships
Various Kiwanis documents say: 

“Since Kiwanis is a community service organization, all Kiwanis scholarships are based largely on the community service activities of the students. There are two kinds of scholarships awarded— club scholarships and named scholarships. The named scholarships honor some former Kiwanis Club member. The funds for the named scholarships are usually provided by the family of the honored member. The funds for the Kiwanis Club scholarships are provided from current club funds, donations, and income from investments (endowment funds).

“In 2018-2019 there were three named scholarships: (a) Jeannette O. Wallace Memorial Scholarship based on outstanding community service; Stephen Stoddard Memorial Scholarship(s) based on outstanding community service and with a preference for students planning to become teachers or nurses; and (a) Lou and Lee Pierotti Memorial Scholarship, based on outstanding community service and participation in varsity athletics…”

“…The Jeannette O. Wallace Memorial Scholarship, funded privately, Is awarded in memory of long-time serving Kiwanian, former County Councilor and State Representative Jeannette O. Wallace. The basis of the award is ‘outstanding community service’…

“The Stephen Stoddard Memorial Scholarship, funded privately, preferably for graduates planning to become nurses or teachers, is awarded in memory of long-time serving Kiwanian, former County Commissioner and State Senator Steve Stoddard.  The basis of award is outstanding community service.

“The Lou and Lee Pierotti Memorial Scholarship, funded privately, is awarded in memory of two prominent Los Alamos business owners. Lou was an honorary Kiwanian for life and the founder of the Pierotti Clowns five-man softball team that raised thousands of dollars for charity under Kiwanis sponsorship. The basis of award is outstanding community service and participation in varsity athletics…

“Because Kiwanis is a community service organization, primary consideration will be given to community service. Kiwanis sponsors Key Club, and, therefore, Key Club members will be given special consideration. An additional factor is participation in school and community-related activities…

“…(And), for the first time in 2019-2020, the committee decided to issue a separate description for a ‘vocational’ scholarship. The feeling was that there should be help available for a good student who did not want to attend a regular four-year university, but wanted to pursue a career in the trades, with ‘trades’ being interpreted liberally.”

About the Winners
Here is a little more information about what makes this year’s eight winners special. (One thing that all of them have in common is that they are outstanding students.)

Dimitri Lopez, (winner of the Wallace scholarship), son of Jerry and Camilla Lopez of Española, is the secretary of the Los Alamos High School Key Club. He spent more than 90 hours in volunteer work for Key Club in his senior year. (His total number of volunteer hours in his junior year was 40.)

He was involved in virtually every Kiwanis or Key Club event in 2019-20.

In addition, he participated in the 2019 United Church of Los Alamos Mexico Mission Trip, building houses for the poor during Spring Break.

He worked as a Los Alamos National Laboratory intern (in CCS-6) in 2019 and 2020 (40 hours a week during the summer, and 10 hours per week during the school year).

He has also worked three hours per week as a math intern at the high school. He said he tutored students “in nearly every class offered at the high school.” He also did “grading for nearly every math topic.”

At home, on his family-owned ranch, his work has ranged from caring for buffalo to building a house on his own.

In an essay included with his application, he said, “Over the past year, I have become deeply involved in Key Club, a Kiwanis community-service club … This year alone, I have clocked in over 90 hours of community service … Needless to say, service has become an integral part of my life, filling up a majority of my free time. One reason why I love service is that I get to see progress be made. I become part of the resolution to a problem, something that I have always enjoyed … Wherever college takes me, I plan to continue helping out within my local community….”

He wants to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall and major in computer science/mathematics.

Sofya Svyatskaya, (winner of the Pierotti Scholarship and a Kiwanis Scholarship), daughter of Daniil Svyatsky and Natalia Sherman of Los Alamos, is serving this year as the Lieutenant Governor of a Key Club district that includes Los Alamos, West Las Vegas, and Santa Fe.

She worked with other lieutenant governors to set up a district-wide convention that included New Mexico, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, Key Clubs. She “created monthly newsletters and coordinated divisional meetings,” and she “was awarded the Robert F. Lucas Outstanding Lieutenant Governor Award.”

She has also served on the Bradbury Science Museum Association Teen Advisory Board; worked to organize teen events at the Bradbury; and worked with local businesses and the county to set up Teen Nights with science-oriented activities, food and games.

She is a ski school instructor who has given private lessons and instructed both kids and adults; she has been a lab intern; and she has worked as a math tutor.

She is the president of the National Honor Society.

She plans to attend Arizona State University this fall and major in pre-med/biology.

Alyssa Parker (winner of a Stoddard Scholarship), daughter of Robert and Marsha Parker of White Rock, has been on the high school girls’ varsity soccer team for four years, and this year, as a senior, she was team captain. 

Soccer has helped her help others. She said, “Each year in October, we host ‘Kick for the Cure’ games to help raise money for breast cancer research.” During the “Topper Soccer Academy,” a week-long summer camp, she has helped coach “girls between the ages of 3 and 12.” She said that, “As a team, we repainted posts at LAHS (Los Alamos High School) by the Auxiliary Gym,” and she “organized safety binders for the Los Alamos Public Schools.”

She has been deeply involved in church and youth camp activities. She has helped with the Fourth of July carnival and parade and run games for local children. In winter, she has shoveled snow off church and family sidewalks. She has done landscaping work at Chamisa Elementary School; and she has re-shelved books and toys at Chamisa.

She has also worked in childcare and house-cleaning jobs.

She plans to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho and major in nursing.

Sophie Schmidt (another Stoddard Scholarship winner), daughter of Emily and Matthew Schmidt of Los Alamos, served on the Student Council at LAHS from 2015 to 2020. During that time, she organized many school functions, helped clean up the school, and planned and officiated school activities including pep rallies, school dances, and hallway decorating. 

She also helped raise money for the schools in Houston damaged by  Hurricane Harvey in 2017. She helped organize annual food and coat drives at school. And, as a member of Key Club from 2018 to 2020, she participated in many activities, including Lucky Ducky Day at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center and the Foster Children’s Christmas Party in Española.

She has been active for the last two years in Link Crew, an organization in which upperclassmen help welcome incoming freshmen to LAHS. 

She said that, “Last year, I took it upon myself to go in and volunteer at my old elementary school (Mountain)….” She helped teachers with their lessons and “just spent time with the kids.”

She has also been a varsity swimmer for the past five years and has qualified for state all five of those years.

She hopes to attend Northern Arizona University this fall and major in social and behavioral psychology, elementary education, and art education.

Emily Holmes (winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship), daughter of Nancy and Richard Holmes of Los Alamos, has been very active as a volunteer in her church. She said, “As a Junior Corps member, I help plan, lead, and speak at retreats and biannual educational events. Last year, I helped plan and speak at biweekly educational events. I help with church community service projects as well, including our annual mission trip and Christmas gift collection … I now teach a weekly theology class to ninth graders. I have over 200 cumulative hours of volunteer service (at the church).”

She helps at the Los Alamos Historical Society, cataloging material in the archives for three to five hours per week, and helping with other tasks as necessary.

She is the current president of the Student Council. “I have worked to ensure that the council gives back to our community,” she said. Last year she helped organize a school-wide food drive, and this year she expanded it. And she has helped to plan events including dances and Homecoming events

She has been active in Key Club since her freshman year, helping with Breakfast with Santa and the Foster Children’s Christmas Party. In 2017 and 2019, she said, “I was recognized for volunteering and serving my community for over 30 hours.”

She is also active in Girl Scouts, Link Crew, and National Honor Society.

She plans to go to Northeastern University and major in history/biology/archaeology.

Sarah M. Crotzer (winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship), daughter of Laura A. and Ronald L. Crotzer of Los Alamos, “… co-founded Youth Helping Refugee Youth with my younger sister to address the needs of refugee youth who have been resettled in Albuquerque via Lutheran Family Services ….” She said, “For the last three years, my sister and I have organized two drives per year. A supplemental school supply drive takes place over the summer, and a coat drive (plus mittens, scarves, hats, etc.) takes place in the fall.”

During summer vacations and holiday breaks from school, she said, she helps her elderly grandfather in Arizona, doing everything from house cleaning to appliance repair.

She is the president of the Biblical Burrito Breakfast Club, a non-denominational religious club at LAHS. Members eat breakfast together, share “uplifting Bible lessons,” and pray together weekly.

She is also an LAHS Orchestra pit musician (first violinist and soloist for “Hello Dolly!”) and has been in Honor Orchestra for several years (2016-2019), and in Solo & Ensemble for two years  (2014 and 2015).

She has been a guest violinist/bell-ringer (2016 and 2017) for the Salvation Army campaigns and occasionally plays at Sunday church, School Board, teacher meetings and weddings.

She has worked as a Los Alamos Public Schools Information Technology Student Intern; as a violin instructor; as a firewood helper; and as a Red Cross Certified Babysitter.

She noted that there is a gap in her employment in the summer of 2019 because, “My little sister sustained a serious life-changing injury in May of 2019. All summer plans … were abruptly canceled as my family’s sole focus turned to meeting my sister’s immense medical needs.”

She plans to go to New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology this fall and major in biomedical sciences and engineering. 

Elise Olivas (winner of a Kiwanis Scholarship), daughter of Mark and Patricia Olivas of Embudo, has had a solid record of public service in several communities.

She worked with the Good Samaritan Society in Las Cruces in June 2016, accumulating 28 volunteer hours. “I volunteered to assist elderly people and helped with various activities throughout the week,” she said.

In Los Alamos, during the Mountain School Pumpkin Palooza one year, she “volunteered to work in the Haunted House to get community service hours for Key Club.”

In Española, she worked for five hours, serving food to the needy in the San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen. 

And, back in Los Alamos, she “volunteered to make cotton candy for National Honor Society” at one of the LAHS basketball games.

She also has work experience. In 2019 and 2020, she worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a certified ergonomic assessment specialist. She said that during the summer, she worked 44 hours per week, and during the school year, she worked 15 hours per week.

She put in 13 hours as an election poll worker in Rio Arriba County, Rural Precinct 38, Velarde, on June 5, 2018.

She has been accepted by five universities, but the one she places at the top of the list is New Mexico State University. She plans to major in “biology, pre-med, animal science, pre-vet, and nursing” with the hope of becoming a physician, physician’s assistant, veterinarian, obstetrician, gynecologist, or nurse practitioner.

Javier Duarte-Gastelum (winner of a Kiwanis vocational school scholarship), is the son of Javier Duarte and Elvia Gastelum, who live in Los Alamos.

His history of volunteer service includes working for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Alamos, setting up free lunches for high school students “including placing chairs and tables, preparing food, (and) cleaning up.…” 

He said he also shoveled snow for elderly and disabled people in winter, and maintained their yards in summer.

He listed employment experience at McDonald’s (2016-2017), where he worked as a cashier, food bagger, and drive-through customer service attendant; at the Pig & Fig (2017-2019), where he worked as a dishwasher and helped keep the restaurant clean; and at the LAHS Transportation Department (2019 and 2020), where he worked as a “bus mechanic … cleaning, sweeping, (doing) oil changes, and tire changes.”

After graduation, he hopes to study at Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix, preparing for a career as a certified automotive and marine mechanic.