Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

2020 Martin Scholars

We are pleased to introduce the 2020 Martin Family Foundation Scholars!

Four Martin Family Foundation Achievement Scholars were selected in May 2020. The Martin Achievement Scholarship selects student early in their community college career and will fund, encourage and support their study and eventual transfer to the University of Washington Seattle. Individuals selected for the 2020 MAS will continue at their respective colleges to complete their courses of study and eligibility credits for specific degree work and will transfer to the UW in 2021. The next deadline for the MAS will be April 2021.

The next group of Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholars will be selected in September 2020. The Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholarship enables Washington State Community College students of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement to complete their baccalaureate degrees at the University of Washington Seattle Campus. Individuals selected for the 2020 MHS are beginning their studies at UW in summer 2020, fall 2020 or winter 2021. The next deadline for the MHS is July 6, 2020. Get application details.

2020 Martin Achievement Scholars:

Sam Ayars, Everett College

Sam was born in Everett, Washington in 1985, has an older brother, and was homeschooled by his mother. He chose not to enter college immediately after high school because he was unsure of the career he wanted to pursue. In 2015 he was exposed to articles Nikola Tesla had written a century prior regarding Tesla’s thoughts and ambitions related to electricity. Realizing that electricity is now involved in almost every aspect of modern life, Sam decided to join the electrical industry by becoming an electrician.

Before he could begin that journey, however, Sam received critical injuries in late 2015 and he needed extensive medical care for the following year. Along with needing to rebuild his physical strength from scratch, including the ability to walk, nerve damage and joint stiffness left him with a disabled arm. After recovering, Sam assessed his situation and realized that his best career choices would now need to rely on his mind and not his physical capabilities. He decided to become an electrical engineer and began attending Everett Community College in the fall of 2018.

Within weeks of starting his first quarter he joined STEM Club where he was elected as the club’s vice president. Throughout the year he supported the club’s several engineering project teams, helped arrange events and tours, and consolidated the club’s communication and documentation systems. After being nominated by his peers, Sam was selected as EvCC’s 2018-2019 Club Member of the Year.

At university Sam intends to focus his electrical engineering studies on the power and energy field. He’s interested in improving how we generate, transmit, and utilize electricity and has a particular interest in wireless energy transmission. He hopes advancements in those areas will have beneficial ripple effects throughout society.

Sam’s tips for future applicants:
Show how you are committed to your education as well as anything that may be unique about you and your journey. Take advantage of the essay prompts that allow you to share who you are, what you’ve gone through, and where you hope to go in the future. Talk to your advisors. They have a wealth of information and would love to help you succeed.

Allegra Keys, South Seattle College

Allegra Keys was born and raised in the Central District of Seattle by a strong single mother, while her father was in and out of prison, battling his addictions. As an infant, Allegra was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease that had a prognosis of two years. Her mother was told to “just take her home and love her,” but instead she fought the prognosis and set Allegra up for a life of challenging expectations and flourishing in the face of adversity. By the age of two, Allegra was one of the youngest people in the state to have a power wheelchair that she was able to drive herself.

Despite frequent hospitalizations and only being able to utilize two fingers, Allegra always excelled academically. In 2010, she graduated high school with honors and was set to be the first person in her family to go to college. However, due to a life-threatening hospitalization prior to starting her freshman year at UW Seattle, she was not ready for the academic and social stressors and left school after two quarters.

At this point, Allegra was nearly two decades past her life expectancy and she decided to spend the next several years checking items off of her bucket list – she traveled to new countries, lived independently and began passionately writing and publishing her poetry. Two years ago, Allegra began receiving the first FDA approved treatment for her type of muscular dystrophy – a dangerous and painful ongoing treatment that has reversed the progression of her disease. With hope and health abundant, Allegra enrolled in college with the final goal of Master of Fine Arts; she has already seen some of her writing published in literary journals. Allegra strongly believes that the voices of marginalized populations – women, people of color, and people with disabilities belong in the literary world.

In her free time Allegra volunteers with Crisis Text Line, because if her life has taught her anything, it’s this: we all just want to be heard.

Allegra’s tips for future applicants:
Though it’s hard talking about your hardships, those are the things that make you unique so don’t be afraid of talking about them. Also, don’t try to write everything at once, take your time. Lastly, just be authentic and honest.

Kayla Pezolano, Highline College

Kayla can be best described as a highly driven scholar with an entrepreneurial spirit. She is set on making an impact in her community and, one day, the world. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Kayla comes from a low-income family who has struggled to break the cycle. Working tirelessly at different jobs, spreading herself thin between the office and the demands of being the head of her family, she knew something had to change. So last year she decided to move to Washington and now calls it her home. However, a change of location couldn’t be the only difference made.

As a former high school drop-out, she went on to complete her diploma online. Soon after, applied to Highline College and now is working on earning a BA in Communication Studies. Throughout Kayla’s journey, she has overcome many obstacles in the pursuit of her degree, including being a first-generation college student from a single-parent household. But the reward of achieving her goals and being someone that not only her family can look up to but others as well keeps her resolve strong.

Kayla’s natural business talents have lead her to accomplish several professional achievements. She has also already begun working on some of her book ideas, seeking to fulfill her goal of being a public speaker and notable author. However, her ultimate goal is to inspire the community with her leadership skills, to make positive changes, whether it be in someone’s personal life or at a higher level. Strong integrity and devout passion to help others permeate her work.

Kayla’s tips for future applicants:
Get it done! I admit as the deadline for this scholarship was approaching I was uncertain if I was going to participate. I experienced some setbacks and was unsure whether I had the time or drive to finish it. So don’t doubt yourself! Make the decision to commit to completing your application and give it your all. Use it as an outlet to express yourself and your goals. A place to reflect on the struggles you rose above. But more importantly, start counting your accomplishments and be confident there’s more to come.

Cassandra Starr, North Seattle College

Cassie hopes to transfer to the University of Washington to pursue studies in civil engineering and education.

Moving to Seattle at age 17 sparked her interest in transportation engineering, when she gained access to more well-developed public transit systems and the ability to travel around the city with ease. After having lived in an area dependent on cars as transportation for most of her life, she was grateful to be able to use the bus. It allowed her to experience rush hour traffic without the stress of driving, but also see Seattle neighborhoods and the importance in having transit access in all communities. This sparked her curiosity in how transportation planning worked, and the ways public transit or traffic systems could be improved to support those in the Seattle area that depend on their development.

However, it took a lot of effort for Cassie to unlearn self-doubt and insecurities in her ability to succeed in both school and STEM. After unwelcoming experiences with STEM and difficulty connecting to formal education, neither felt like her path, despite interest. Like many teenagers, she struggled with how to define her future and her own identity development, while also experiencing the sudden loss of her father in high school.

After being welcomed into a youth development program not long after, she found a valuable community and experience that helped shape her future pathways and confidence in her ability to succeed. It made her passionate about developing quality curriculum and programs that engage with youth, particularly to support those who endure challenging circumstances in school and feel a sense of non-belonging. She hopes to promote opportunities to young people interested in STEM that are welcoming, culturally inclusive, and utilize informal teaching strategies – and incorporate both her passions of study into future work.

Cassie’s tips for future applicants:
Don’t convince yourself it’s not worth applying, and try not to compare yourself to other potential applicants. Everyone’s history is meaningful, so find a way to share yours in essays and what matters to you. When you do decide to apply: reach out for help and resources when you need it, and spend ample time working on those essays!


2020 Martin Honors Scholars:
to be announced in September