Bette Peterson of Clovis has donated $10,000 each of the past two years to the League of Women Voters of Fresno for 10 scholarships for Fresno State and community college students with strong academics, financial need and interests in government, natural resources or social policy issues. Allow me to to tell you a bit about three of this year's recipients.
Raven Kapphahn is an African-American young lady and a junior at Fresno State. She was diagnosed in infancy as "failure to thrive," meaning she manifested an inadequate growth pattern. She was adopted at the age of 3 by older Caucasian parents who passed away while she was in high school. Left with no financial support, she has been resourceful in putting herself through college. She has defied the "failure to thrive" syndrome by developing into a robust, attractive person.
Raven has received a Presidential Scholarship, so her tuition and housing are paid for at Fresno State. She received a government scholarship that permitted her to study Arabic in Jordan. She also received a national scholarship to study abroad in Ghana.
She is determined to give back to the community that nourished her and has been on the leadership council at Fresno State for two years. She volunteers at Californians for Justice, an organization that works for equality for women and minorities. She is a member of the Renaissance Scholars Program which supports former foster youths and independent youths. Her hope is to become an international government officer who addresses Middle Eastern and North African social issues. Poised, articulate and gracious, Raven has shown remarkable strength and growth despite her difficult beginnings.
Kimberly Wheeler is a junior at Fresno State who was a teen mother and high school dropout who got married early and worked herself up to become manager of a group of restaurants. After a big promotion she knew she could do more and started her own business in Visalia focusing on children's entertainment.
During this time she earned her GED and knew she wanted to continue her education. Now the parents of five children, she and her husband decided to sell their business; while he went back to welding, she went back to waitressing so she could enroll at the College of the Sequoias to earn an associate's degree.
Kimberly is enrolled in a program leading to a degree in mass communication. She would like to work in politics or business public relations to have an influence on the world. A life complication arose when her husband had an accident recently that required spine surgery and left him temporarily unable to work. Their financial struggles will be eased a little bit with her scholarship.
Emily Haas is a Fresno City College student who plans to transfer to a four-year institution after she completes her studies in anthropology next year. She is such a good communicator and so skilled academically that even at this point in her career she was invited to present the results of anthropological research at a conference. Her academic references describe her as dedicated, insightful and thoughtful, having the potential to excel in her field and having a clear sense of purpose. In person she is charming, bubbly and charismatic.
Emily has provided community service since she was a young girl in Chicago, where she volunteered at homeless shelters. As a young teen she raised money to volunteer in several countries.
After graduating from high school she moved to Detroit to support community growth and development through maintaining community gardens and organizing food distribution to homeless people. In her move to Fresno she has continued to participate in civil justice activities and community development.
Francine M. Farber is a full-time community volunteer and the immediate past president of the League of Women Voters of Fresno.