RFA / USC Caldwell Neighborhood Scholars

In December 1965, shortly after the Watts riots, the late Russell L. Caldwell, a specialist in Early American history, a human rights activist, and the president of the USC Faculty Association, challenged his colleagues to support a positive new kind of demonstration at USC — a commitment to create a USC-to-neighborhood relationship by providing scholarships for students from high schools surrounding USC.

“We seek your aid,” he outlined in his initial plea to USC staff and faculty, “in establishing FacultyStaff supported scholarships for worthy students in USC’s neighborhood who could not otherwise ever hope to attend USC.” He challenged his colleagues to “donate $5 or more per month through payroll deductions in order to raise $2000 a year to aid students.”

The USC Neighborhood Scholarship, as it was then called, officially launched in 1966. Although the $2000 goal was not reached immediately, the first Scholarship was awarded the next year to Preston Mike, Jr., a 17-year-old mid-year graduate of Manual Arts High School. Mike received $549 to help pay for books and tuition and was granted additional awards until his graduation in 1972.

Professor Caldwell died in 1979, and at his request, the USC Retired Faculty Association became a sponsor of the scholarship. The RFA then voted to change the name to the Russell L. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program.

Silvia Gomez: A senior majoring in Business Administration and the first from her family to go to college. She is active in intramural sports and is a member of the Best Buddies Club, a support organization for special needs students in her local community. For the past few summers, Sylvia has worked as a tax intern at the well-known accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. She won Dean’s List honors for three semesters and serves on the Leventhal School of Accounting Honors Council.

Mousael Rosa Louis: A USC Dean’s List junior majoring in psychology and organizational philanthropy. She graduated from Dorsey High School in 2015 at the top of her class. She continues her work as a campus Housing Residence Advisor and her passion for salsa and bachata dancing landed her on the USC Salsa Dance Team. Mousael volunteers for Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce and mentors Dorsey High School students about college preparation.

Carlos Marin: A junior who entered USC in 2015 from Thomas Jefferson High School where he was the class valedictorian. He was an intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Carlos spent his 2017 summer at the Air Force Rocket Lab located at Edwards Air Force Base studying the development of Rotation Detonation Engines. He tutors high school students in AP Calculus and plans to pursue advanced degrees in engineering after graduation. He majors in Astronautical Engineering with a focus on in-space propulsion.

Esmeralda Catalina Leon: As 2017 Class Salutatorian from Belmont Senior High School, she received honors for her GPA and Academic Decathlon Speech competitions. She took college courses at LACC as part of the Upward Bound Program and in the GEAR UP 4 LA Mentor Program she mentored high school peers on college opportunities. She was a member of USC’s Math Engineering Science Achievement Program. Esmeralda plans to major in Aerospace Engineering.

Gwang Neung (Daniel) Kim: A senior majoring in Philosophy, he arrived at USC with honors from Belmont High School. He spent his first year at USC exploring courses in communications, philosophy and Russian political thought. He remains active as a teacher and audio/visual technology supervisor at his church. Daniel is learning Chinese language characters just for the fun of it.

Brenda Lili Apreza: While a student at Thomas Jefferson High School, Brenda took summer classes at USC via the Upward Bound Program and Project Bridge Programs. She was awarded a trip to South Korean for study. Brenda played alto and tenor saxophones for the Jazz Band and taught middle and high school students how to read music and play instruments. She also participated in Academic Decathlon competitions. Brenda majors in English and is pursuing a career as a foreign language English teacher.

Mariela Cardenas: 2016 Valedictorian from Belmont High School, she was named a College AP Scholar. Now a USC sophomore majoring in English, she received the first year Dean’s List honors. Mariela minors in Film with an emphasis on creative writing. She volunteers in the L.A. Public Library Lunch Programs where she prepares daily meals for neighborhood children and engages them in learning activities. She tutors Belmont High School students in writing and college financial aid planning.

Carlos A. Fajardo: Entered USC in 2017 from Manual Arts Senior High School – College Preparatory Magnet. A College Prep Magnet High Honors student, Carlos was awarded JROTC Academic Excellent Medals for three years, was a 2016 College Prep Magnet Student of the Month, participated in Academic Decathlon Competitions for two years and four years in USC’s Upward Bound Program. His various community service activities included the College Ambassador Program assisting 250-plus students with college applications, All-City and National JROTC Drill Team Competitions and a Revlon Stand Up To Cancer Walk volunteer. Carlos is a Biological Sciences/PreMed major with a Biotechnology minor.


Smartphones make it easy to donate to the Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship.

Text the word “Emeriti” to 41444 on your cell phone to make a pledge. You will receive a text that gives you a link to donate.