USC RFA 2020-2021 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. 

Here are this year’s amazing scholars:


Esmeralda Leon is a senior studying Aerospace Engineering. This year she is serving as Vice President of Community Outreach for SHPE USC (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers). Her efforts encourage young students in K-12 to pursue careers in STEM. She is also a mentor for GEAR UP 4 LA in which she helps freshmen navigate through their first year of college.” Her sophomore year she served as Ambassador for the Center for Engineering Diversity Mentor Program advising high school students in the transition to college. Read more about Esmeralda in her Caldwell Scholar Spotlight here!


Carlos A. Fajardo is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences/PreMed with a Biotechnology minor. Carlos came to USC from Manual Arts Senior High School – College Preparatory Magnet with high honors. He is a member of the Latino Students in Medicine Club and volunteers in USC’s Upward Bound Program tutoring high school students in math, English and history.  He is bilingual and proficient in several computer operating systems. Carlos plans to work in the medical field after graduation, eventually attending medical school.



Nicholas Isai Lopez is a Junior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Data Science.  He enjoys reading books and comics, drawing cartoons, and learning different subjects and skills on LinkedIn Learning. He likes watching TED talks and documentaries. In his time at USC he has focused on his personal development, becoming very self-motivated and working through the challenges he faces as a student with Autism, that struggles socially. He has pushed himself out of his comfort zone to meet new people through classes and extracurricular activities such as Shepherds Club, Share A Meal, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. He highly values helping others, for instance through USC’s I AM Mentoring Program, he tutored a student at Manual Arts Senior High School, who is now attending UC Davis. Nicholas graduated Manual Arts Senior High as Magnet Valedictorian for his Class of 2018. He is currently a mentor to a transfer student through the USC First-Generation Mentor program. Nicholas hopes to become more involved in school by seeking out opportunities that expand upon his interest in Data Science and School Counseling.


Briana Lizbeth Chavez Ramos is a current junior from Manual Arts Senior High School where she was on the principal’s honor roll for 4 years and the Valedictorian of her 2018 graduating class. At USC, Briana is a Political Science major on the pre-law track and hopes to attend law school right after graduation. Some of her involvements at USC include volunteering with JEP as a mentor for children who live in shelters, feeding the homeless population in Los Angeles through an organization called Share-A-Meal, mentoring 3rd – 12th grade students in the student-run organization Troy Camp, and is a student worker at the USC Ticket Office as well as at USC Transportation. In the Fall semester of 2019, Briana interned at Parent Revolution, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting parents of students attending LAUSD schools. Briana is involved in Greek life at USC as well – she is a sister of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority Inc., a sorority within the Multicultural Greek Council, in which she has leadership roles and is a member of Phi Alpha Delta, a co-ed fraternity dedicated to guiding pre-law students through their years at USC. Briana currently has a 3.47 GPA and expects to graduate in May 2022.



Jada Salazar is currently in her Sophomore year and has declared her major in Business Administration at USC Marshall and her minor in Law and Psychology. Currently, she serves as the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Marshall’s Business Student Government. She works with her tenacious peers to insure inclusivity at every level of Marshall and USC as a whole. She participated in the Coury Leadership Program and earned a certificate of achievement for expanding on her top strengths: Input; Learner; Intellection; Developer; Ideation. Over the summer, Jada interned at Emzingo Consulting for a women empowerment non-profit organization and incubator, Asplande. She serves as a College Board AP Council member advocating for students and their need for equitable resources. Jada plans on continuing to aim for the Dean’s list every semester.


Keyron Colvin is in his sophomore year, majoring in Computer Science. He attended Manual Arts Senior High School where he maintained a four-year 4.0 GPA, was president of Magnet Senate leadership club, a member of the Robotics ClubCollege AmbassadorsManual Arts Beyond Borders that taught empowerment strategies to underserved and immigrant communities and played in the Manual Arts Band. He amassed 40 units of college credits via community college Upward Bound programs, volunteers to feed Santa Monica’s homeless, and has interests such as writing poetry and gaming.



Kevin Gomez’s ambition arose from his dedication to community service and plans to major in Political Science and ChicanX Studies. During his time in the Law and Public Service Pathway at Roosevelt High School, Kevin took part as student representative in the School Site Council, Student Body Vice-President, and has been on the Principal’s Honor Roll for the past four years. Apart from his school involvement, Kevin has worked to promote student activism and social equity. He has served under Eric Garcetti’s Mayor’s Youth Council where he published the LA311 campaign, has an active role in the Boyle Heights Youth Festival in the Marketing and Outreach committee, and took part of Congressmen Jimmy Gomez’s Youth Advisory Council. His passion to help his community, while embracing his culture, has motivated him to support those in need despite the circumstances and beyond the demographic boundaries.


Michael Hernandez Garcia graduated from Los Angeles Senior High School as Salutatorian for the Class of 2020. He received a high honor roll every year for all four years of high school. Throughout high school, he was actively involved in various clubs and organizations such as Bible Club, Financial Literacy Club, Dance Club, and Arc Leadership Club. Garcia was awarded the Scholar-Athlete Award, the Track, and Field Highest GPA Award, and the Principal’s High Honors Award. Since the beginning of 9th grade, he participated in the USC Upward Bound Math and Science Program (UBMS). All four years of high school he was involved in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program ( MESA) solving engineering challenges and competing against various schools. Through MESA, he was inspired to pursue a degree in Engineering. He is majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.