Scholarly send-off: Groups reward local students’ athletic and academic success by giving aid for college

Kiefer Black and Finn Bugelli of La Jolla High School with Joyce and Dave Abrams and coach Tom Atwell
From left, water polo scholarship winners Kiefer Black and Finn Bugelli of La Jolla High School stand with Joyce and Dave Abrams and coach Tom Atwell.
(Nicola Bugelli)

As the San Diego Unified School District year ends, athletic and academic scholarships large and small are being given to high school seniors who soon will be off to college.

Here’s a look at some local groups and the scholarships they have awarded.

For the record:

11:53 a.m. June 16, 2023This article was corrected to say that Windansea Surf Club scholarship winner Alexis Khim will attend UC Santa Barbara.

Matthew Abrams Memorial Award

The pool prowess and team leadership of two La Jolla High School water polo players was so impressive that an annual scholarship for “most valuable player” was made plural this year.

Seniors Kiefer Black and Finn Bugelli both received the Matthew Abrams Memorial Award, which was begun in 2019 by La Jollans Dave and Joyce Abrams as a way to memorialize their son Matthew Abrams, a 1999 La Jolla High graduate who was MVP of its boys water polo team that year. He died of cancer in 2018.

The award comes with the players’ names on a plaque hung at the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex and a $1,000 scholarship for each.

The recipients are selected yearly by the LJHS water polo team and coach Tom Atwell. This year, “both excelled in their leadership and performance ... and it would not be right to exclude one of them,” Dave Abrams said.

Black, who was urged to give water polo a try at the end of eighth grade, “caught the water polo bug” by the end of his first season, he said. “I spent hours in the pool, weight room, watching film and doing whatever I could to make up for my lack of experience.”

Black now looks forward to starting his college water polo career at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Bugelli, who claimed his award two years after his older brother, Rhys, has played water polo since age 7. He credited Atwell with creating “a really positive environment for the team.”

Bugelli will now join Rhys in playing water polo at UC San Diego.

Atwell said Black and Bugelli were “such an amazing complement to one another,” both in the pool and as team captains.

“They worked together and with their other teammates to get the most out of each other and the guys they played with,” Atwell said. “They also led from the front in practice, working as hard as anyone. They were equally impressive.”

La Jolla Rotary Club

La Jolla students celebrate their academic achievements with the La Jolla Rotary Club at the La Valencia Hotel.
La Jolla students celebrate their academic achievements with the La Jolla Rotary Club at the La Valencia Hotel.
(La Jolla Rotary Club)

The La Jolla Rotary Club celebrated the academic success of 22 high school seniors during a luncheon at the La Valencia Hotel on June 7.

The club provides two different types of scholarships: the Riford scholarships, which are restricted to students attending California colleges and majoring in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and the Rotary scholarships, which are given based on need, regardless of where the students attend college or what their major is.

The recipients are La Jolla Country Day School student Alexander Randall; Bishop’s School students Arjun Raisinghani and Grace Sun; Preuss School students Diana Martinez Espana, Hermione Martinez, Hong Wen, Ellery Juarez and Salem Salas; and La Jolla High School students Manoah Abate, Anette Aguirre, Roman Altamirano, Valentina Godinez, Brandon Hernandez, Sainyah Jackson, Angelina Kwan, Madeleine McCullough, Anissa Naomi Nunez, Ian Quezada, Isabella Ramirez, Carter Rawson, Giavana Renteria and Bailee Rodriguez.

Eligible students may reapply for each of the next three years of undergraduate school.

For more information about the program, visit

Windansea Surf Club

La Jolla High School Vice Principal Joe Caviola, Alexis Khim and Emma Lhuillier
Alexis Khim (center) is presented a $2,000 scholarship by Windansea Surf Club member Emma Lhuillier as La Jolla High School Vice Principal Joe Caviola looks on.
(Neva Sullaway)

Following a fundraising party at Duke’s La Jolla that raised more money than expected, La Jolla High School senior Alexis Khim was surprised to learn she was awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Windansea Surf Club.

The May 5 fundraiser garnered nearly $38,000 in proceeds, which will be distributed to “Day at the Beach” events — which offer underprivileged youths and others a chance to learn about surfing and beach preservation — as well as the Y Strong Girls program and the La Jolla High School Scholarship Foundation.

“This year, the WindanSea Surf Club started a $2,000 scholarship through the Scholarship Foundation,” according to member Steve Sullaway. To be eligible, students must demonstrate financial need, academic achievement and an interest in science fields.

Khim will be attending UC Santa Barbara to study molecular biology with a further interest in neuroscience, Sullaway said.

Learn more about the club at ◆