Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

2020 Martin Scholars

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

Three Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholars were 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. The next deadline for the MHS will be July 2021.

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.

2020 Martin Honors Scholars:

2020 Martin Achievement Scholars:

2020 Martin Honors Scholars:

Camila Christensen, Seattle Central College

Camila is a computer science student at the University of Washington who is inspired to put her learning into action by volunteering for different organizations. For her, it was a moment of enlightenment when she decided she wanted to become a Software Engineer. Growing up, mathematics, science and technology were far from her reality. She was born and raised in a low-income family in the Southeastern part of Brazil and decided to move to Seattle six years ago.

In 2017, while working tirelessly in a full-time job she enrolled at college to be the first person in her family to acquire an associate degree. Unsure of the career she wanted to pursue, it wasn’t until a year later that she found her passion for technology during a conference that connected young women to companies in the Seattle area. After losing her childhood friend to cancer and having her mom being diagnosed with cancer twice, Camila decided she wanted to pursue a career in which she could make an impact in the lives of others. She decided to become a Medical Software Engineer.

Through her passion for computer science and diversity & inclusion, she learned how she can make an impact in her community. She volunteered at Girls Who Code – an international non-profit organization dedicated to close the gender gap in technology – serving as a role model to the young girls. Furthermore, she is the former president of Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) where she focused on enhancing the experiences of women in STEM by creating a collaborative and supportive environment and she volunteered at a mobile food pantry in Burien providing nutritious food to low incoming individuals diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

Camila’s tips for future applicants:
Believe in yourself, applying for a scholarship can be stressful and overwhelming but you can do it. Start early, get organized and have a second pair of eyes to check your application. When writing your essay, reflect about your story, past experiences and make sure to share what matters the most to you. You got this!

Audrey Santoyo, Bellevue College

Audrey is a woman who is compelled to help others and is inspired by a genuine love for all people. As a young girl, her grandmother predicted that she would grow up to become a healer, something that Audrey has dreamed about ever since. Now, she is fulfilling that dream by pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to become a registered nurse in an emergency department.

However, it wasn’t always an easy road to get to the University of Washington. During her first year of college after struggling to graduate from high school, she overcame an abusive relationship, survived sexual assault, and faced homelessness. Unsure of what she would do with her life, her grandmother’s words resonated within her and she persevered. She clung strongly to the belief that she could and would be able to heal others and make a difference in the world. After tapping into her inner strength, Audrey achieved her Associate’s degree with high distinction, all while working and becoming a wife and then a mother to two beautiful young children.

Today, as she takes the next steps towards accomplishing her goals, she ensures that she still follows her heart’s passion to serve the community by volunteering at You Belong Community, a safe place for women who are transitioning out of homelessness or foster care who may be pregnant or raising children, and a local food bank. When she is not volunteering, she makes it a habit to take the time to encourage and bring joy to those around her. She is a firm believer that no matter what obstacles you may face in life, you always have the choice to grow from it and empower others along the way.

Audrey’s tips for future applicants:
Before applying, have the confidence in yourself that you can write powerful essays, believe in everything that you have accomplished in your life, and share your story. As for the application itself, make sure that you allow enough time for the essays, be respectful of other’s time (especially when asking them to write letters of recommendation for you), and make sure that you reflect on everything you have achieved and talk about your goals. Take a deep breath and remember you CAN do this.

Morel Takougang, Edmonds Community College

Morel was born in Yaounde, Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa. In an environment where parents were skeptical about putting their children through school, and would rather have them work in their farms, his parents still decided to invest in his education. After seeing his desire to learn more about how machines they were using for their farms work internally, they introduced him to one of their friends, Mr. Gweth, a Computer Science graduate.

After spending a summer in 11th grade with Mr. Gweth, and bothering him with millions of questions about how electronics work, Morel fell in love with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. One of Mr. Gweth’s goals is to provide a more concrete way of teaching engineering, so he experimented with that teaching style on Morel. They spent the whole summer breaking down old machines and building circuits from the remaining parts. Although he could not fully understand everything, he knew that with this knowledge, he would be able to build devices that could better the lives of the people around him.

His parents, understanding his eagerness to learn and impact his community, did everything possible to send him to the US, where he would be taken care of by his uncle. Unfortunately, his uncle passed away two years after he moved. As he was trying to emotionally cope with the circumstances, he was faced with the reality of having to provide for his family back home, so he dropped out of school and started working full time.

To stay connected with his education, Morel spent his time off work mentoring and teaching international students, as well as high school students from Cameroon. But to get to the point where he is fully motivated to pursue his education and achieve his goals, he had a lot of help from his friends and family. As his journey at the University of Washington as a Computer Engineer is about to start, he is now looking forward to accomplishing those goals: building technology that would improve the lives of his community in the medical and agricultural fields.

Morel’s tips for future applicants:
The number of essays and rounds can discourage you to apply, but you miss all of the shots that you don’t take! Besides, this scholarship is not principally about your academic achievement. The Martin Family Foundation is really making an effort to know you as a person and understand what you have to offer to your community and the world. So, pour your heart on those essays and be confident!

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!