Gavilan College Superintendent Dr. Pedro Avila is pictured with Cipriano Echezarreta, the 2024 recipient of the UC Santa Cruz Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Scholarship. Contributed photo.

Cipriano Echezarreta, a graduate of the Gavilan College Class of 2024 who will transfer to UC Santa Cruz in the fall, was awarded the prestigious Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Scholarship. 

Echezarreta, a resident of San Juan Bautista, is an environmental science major whose career goal is to make a difference in the world through environmental policy, according to an announcement from Gavilan College. 

He achieved his academic accomplishments despite facing ongoing challenges resulting from an accident two years ago, which left him in a hospital ICU for months, Echezarreta shared. 

“I had to learn how to walk and speak all over again,” Echezarreta said. “I spent months in speech, occupational, and physical therapies learning to do the simple things I used to take for granted. After persevering, I needed to get my college goals back on track and I decided to attend Gavilan College a year ago.” 

Last semester, Echezarreta had a 4.0 grade point average at Gavilan—an accomplishment for which he shared thanks to Gavilan’s STEM Center, math tutor Aidan Diekmann and calculus classmate Greg Demo. 

Echezarreta was also recognized last month by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren for his years of volunteerism with the local environmental advocacy group, CHEER, according to Gavilan College Superintendent and President Dr. Pedro Avila. 

The Pister Scholarship was established in 1993 by former UCSC chancellor Karl S. Pister to increase opportunities for talented community college students who want to transfer to UCSC, Gavilan College said. The scholarship recognizes students who have overcome adverse socioeconomic circumstances, shown a demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others, and who might not otherwise be able to attend UCSC for financial reasons.

Candidates for the Pister Scholarship are nominated by the presidents of each of the 13 regional community colleges. The nominations are reviewed by the Leadership Opportunity Awards Review Committee, and one student from each college is selected to receive up to $20,000 in award money ($10,000 awarded for two years).

“Cipriano’s story is one of overcoming tremendous physical challenges, beyond what most of us might never experience,” Avila said. “I was impressed by his perseverance to succeed at Gav in such a short period, as well as his leadership outside of the college with…CHEER.” 

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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