Two UC Merced Students Win Strauss $10K Public Service Scholarship

MERCED - The Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation, established as a memorial to the late Don Strauss of Newport Beach and now designed to award $10,000 scholarships to at least 14 California college juniors annually, has announced that UC Merced students Christiane Pailo and Kshiti Vaghela are among the foundation's new group of recipients..

The Strauss scholarships fund public-service projects the students have proposed and will carry out during their senior year. Pailo, who hails from Merced, and Vaghela, who comes from Bakersfield, will facilitate bi-monthly, after-school, hands-on science clubs for elementary school children. They will also organize a field trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco for children who have never had the chance to step within the perimeters of a science museum. Their goal is to encourage young children's curiosity and scientific dreams.

"We'll be recruiting our fellow students to volunteer as club facilitators," Pailo said. "That way there's almost no limit on how many elementary school students we can touch with our program. We already have six other students interested in helping out."

The duo plans to use the scholarship funds to buy equipment like microscopes and Petri dishes to create club kits that can be transported to different schools on different days. They are also soliciting donations from companies.

Club facilitators will use this equipment to teach young students science in accessible terms - helping them think about the forces that influence a soccer ball, the properties of waves in a bucket of water or a Slinky toy, and how the tastes of their favorite foods travel from the mouth to the brain through the nervous system.

"We hope this makes science not so scary for students, so they're ready to enter science and engineering fields when they reach the college level," Pailo said.

Don Strauss demonstrated a strong, life-long commitment to public service and education, reflected in his 10 years on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board and 12 years on the Newport Beach City Council, including one as mayor.

He also founded summer internships in Washington, D.C., for students at Cornell University, Stanford University, the University of Rhode Island, the California Institute of Technology and Harvey Mudd College, and he endowed scholarships at Stanford, U.C. Irvine and Harvey Mudd. He died in 1995 at the age of 79.

Strauss' widow, Dorothy M.R. Strauss, established the foundation in January 1997 as a "tribute to the vision, ideals and leadership of Donald A. Strauss." In its first year, the foundation board invited 10 universities to nominate up to three students each for Strauss scholarships, with the board making the final selection of the 10 winners. Dorothy Strauss saw her vision for the Foundation realized - she phoned each of the 10 first-year winners to notify them personally - before she passed away in October of 1997 at the age of 83.

In its second year, the Foundation broadened its reach and awarded 15 $10,000 scholarships. It now gives no fewer than 14 each year. This new group represents the Foundation's 10th year of awarding such scholarships, and like their counterparts in the past, all of this year's recipients have extensive records of community and public service, as well as a demonstrated desire to "make a difference."

UC Merced student body President Josh Franco won the Strauss scholarship when he was a junior. He created Students for the Central Valley and has become an active leader in Valley issues.

For more information, visit the Strauss Foundation at


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