2017 Student Awards and Scholarships

President's Award Winners

The President's Award, worth $2,000, is presented annually to two graduating students who have overcome adversity and shown great perseverance in seeking an education at De Anza. 

Diego Gomez smilingDiego Gómez, a philosophy major, is the 2017 commencement speaker.

He will be transferring to San Francisco State University this fall. During his time at De Anza, he worked as a mentor for the Men of Color Community program and was a teacher's aide for Chicano Studies.

Gómez is also active in campus organizations and composes poetry.

Read more about Diego Gómez.


Stephanie DittrichStephanie Dittrich came to De Anza College after a long journey. Along the way, she overcame cancer and other health issues before she resolved to resume her education.

That journey led Dittrich from the Central Valley town of Modesto to De Anza’s campus in Cupertino, where she majored in liberal arts and pursued an interest in environmental studies. The 24-year-old is graduating this month with a 3.7 GPA and will transfer to the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Dittrich said she’s always been interested in nature. Spending time outdoors has helped her cope with past troubles, and she believes it’s important for the world to preserve biodiversity. But she hadn’t considered that field of study until she began taking classes at De Anza. “At my previous school we didn’t have an environmental studies department. I didn’t realize that was an option,” she said.

De Anza’s reputation as a top transfer school drew Dittrich to Cupertino. She moved to the Bay Area after deciding she needed to change her surroundings. In Modesto, although she had beaten cancer as a teenager, additional health problems led to depression and substance abuse, causing her to leave college there. Fortunately, Dittrich said she got help and overcame those issues.

“That was the lowest point in my life,” she said. But she decided, “there was nowhere to go from here but up.”

During her time at De Anza, Dittrich served on the DASB Environmental Sustainability Committee, started a group called Artists for the Environment and volunteered at an urban farming project in Sunnyvale. She also worked part-time as a nanny. She enjoys outdoor photography and teaching yoga.

Dittrich said De Anza’s academic program has prepared her for the demands of a four-year university. While studying here, she added, “I have met people and become close to people from so many different cultural backgrounds and from so many different countries. It has really expanded my mind, and my worldview, in a way that is just priceless.”

DeHart Scholarship Winner

The A. Robert DeHart Memorial Scholarship, worth $2,000, is presented in memory of the founding president of De Anza. 

Jorge GuitronJorge “Georgie” Güitrón says he used to worry about running out of gas as he drove, back and forth, from classes at De Anza to an off-campus job, volunteer activities  and his home in San Jose’s Evergreen district. Both money and time were in short supply during his two years as a student here.

But Güitrón, winner of this year’s A. Robert DeHart Memorial Scholarship, says he was determined to defy expectations. “Men of color are often given the stigma that they can’t succeed in school,” he explained.“It’s important for me to change that narrative.”

Güitrón, a first-generation college student, will graduate this month and transfer to the University of California, San Diego, where he’ll major in sociology. He eventually wants to earn a master’s degree and become a teacher and social justice advocate.

The 20-year-old Güitrón credits De Anza’s faculty, staff and fellow students with helping him through his time in college. He had special praise for the Puente Project and Alicia Cortez, now interim director for Student Success and Retention Services. Puente is a learning community that provides counseling and other help for students from historically underserved populations.

“My parents didn’t really know the education system. So coming in (to De Anza), I didn’t know how to navigate the system, nor did I have anyone to turn to. I was kind of on my own until I got connected with Alicia at Puente,” he said. “These people are literally down for you, and they have your back.”

Through Puente, Güitrón was introduced to De Anza’s Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, where he worked part-time in the Jean Miller Resource Room for Women, Gender and Sexuality. He said he’s been proud to help organize conferences and exhibits that highlight diversity within the LGBTQQI community.

Outside school, Güitrón has volunteered with civic campaigns for affordable housing and other community issues. He also does volunteer work at the Sikh gurdwara, or temple, in East San Jose. Though he’s not Sikh, Güitrón said he was invited there by friends when he was growing up in the neighborhood, and he found it a welcoming and supportive environment.

In the future, Güitrón said he wants to be the one helping others, by building communities and advocating for those who have been marginalized in the past.

Pister Scholarship Winner

The Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Awards Program was established to increase opportunities for community college students who want to transfer to the University of California, Santa Cruz. Awards are $10,000 per year for two years. 

Suleima Ochoa

Suleima Ochoa is this year's winner of the Karl S. Pister scholarship. Ochoa will transfer to the University of California, Santa Cruz, this fall and plans to major in community studies.

The scholarship is awarded to community college transfer students who have overcome adverse circumstances and demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others.

Ochoa, who lives in Newark, first confronted adversity as a child. After her father was falsely imprisoned, she said, she struggled to understand what had happened. The experience sparked frustration, bitterness and other emotions that troubled her for years. That struggle also made it more difficult to succeed in school.

At De Anza, however, Ochoa said she gained a community of supporters who have pushed her to succeed. Friends and teachers at the college have become her mentors. It wasn’t easy to keep up with work and school; she often balanced two or three jobs and a full load of courses. But Ochoa said she was inspired by those mentors to learn about social justice, gender equality and public policy, and to advocate for social change.

One early opportunity came through the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action (VIDA) at De Anza. Through that program, Ochoa worked with TRANSITion, a group that advocatese for public transportation reform. She also worked with Fund Our Future on a campaign to increase state financial support for higher education. In addition, she joined Students For Justice, which encourages students to fight for social justice on and off campus.

Ochoa said her activism helped her develop a new self-identity and understand some of the systemic and socio-economic issues that had an impact in her life. Ochoa now works as an intern with VIDA and plans to continue her activism and work to help others when she transfers to UCSC. 


Building: ADM 150
Phone: 408.864.8758


Last Updated: 7/17/17