Santa Clara University Names Newest Class of Johnson Scholars

SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Eleven incoming Santa Clara University first-year students have been
chosen as Johnson Scholars for the Class of 2020.

“This group of Johnson Scholars exemplifies the values that Rupert and
Maryellie Johnson wanted to honor with this prestigious scholarship:
compassion, leadership, integrity, and academic excellence,” said SCU
President Michael E. Engh, S.J. “We are proud to have such a strong and
diverse group of students join our community at Santa Clara University,
and we look forward to the spirit of service and excellence they will
bring with them.”

The students were chosen after going through a series of selection
activities that included book reading discussion groups, writing an
essay based on the discussion, and three afternoon leadership exercises
organized by the Center for Student Leadership. The 11 new Johnson
Scholars were chosen from among 46 finalists who came to campus for a
Scholarship Weekend paired with the University Admission Preview Day. A
feature story was recently written on the selection process in the Chronicle
of Higher Ed
, detailing the way in which the students are evaluated
and carefully selected.

“It is a great day to be a Bronco and a Johnson Scholar! The Johnson
Scholars leadership team as well as all of the faculty and staff
involved in the selection process enthusiastically welcome all of our
new Scholars and congratulate the finalists and semi-finalists,” said
Dr. Amy Shachter, who is co-director of the program along with Dr.
Leilani Miller.

The Johnson
Scholars program
is funded by a generous gift from donors Rupert and
Maryellie Johnson as a way to help students and enhance the University’s
mission. Mr. Johnson is vice chairman and director of the financial firm
Franklin Resources and serves the University as a trustee emeritus. He
was previously a member of the Board of Trustees.

The program was established to award full, renewable academic
scholarships to SCU’s most academically accomplished, leadership-minded
applicants. The scholars must meet demanding personal and academic
criteria to be chosen: they must be individuals of high ethical
standards; have maintained a 3.8 GPA or higher; have achieved top-tier
SAT and ACT scores; have proven stellar academic, leadership, and
service performance; and have demonstrated leadership potential.

During their four years, the Johnson Scholars receive premier access to
the University’s top leadership and honors programs, including the
prestigious Johnson Leadership Fellows program, a summer stipend for a
self-designed leadership experience. Comprehensive and intellectually
challenging, the Johnson Scholars Program provides the community of
scholars with opportunities to learn beyond campus and develop their
skills as leaders to build a more just, humane, and sustainable world.

The newest Johnson Scholars hail from New York, Colorado, California,
Illinois, Nevada, and Oregon.

Jacob Bennett
Hometown: Lewiston, NY
Canisius High School
Major: Engineering

Jacob Peltier Bennett played basketball, ultimate frisbee, swam, ran
cross country, served as student senator and was a member of the Mock
Trial team at Canisius High School. Throughout the past four years Jacob
has been committed to serving not only Canisius but the Buffalo
community as a whole. He has volunteered at Heart, Love, and Soul soup
kitchen, the Response to Love Center, and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy
where he has strived to break down the barriers of a divided city and
forge relationships with those whom he serves. Jacob’s dedication to
social justice stems largely from an immersion trip to Nicaragua that he
went on his junior year, a trip that drastically impacted how he sees
the world around him. Jacob is drawn to the community aspect of Santa
Clara, and is looking forward to being a leader in all that he does on
and off campus.

Alexa DeSanctis
Hometown: Aurora, CO
Regis Jesuit High School Girls Division
Major: Biology

Alexa is passionate about learning, leading, and serving others.
Throughout high school she was given the incredible opportunity to serve
as a board member of the National Honors Society, Vice President of SHS,
a student ambassador, and a leader on many retreats. She also spent a
great deal of time as a captain of the cheer squad, was named a UCA
All-American Cheerleader and served as a member of the Colorado Elite
Quad. Alexa worked in her church as a co-president of her youth group
and member of the praise team. She also served her community,
volunteering at homeless shelters and local middle schools as well as
founding a non-profit organization to provide books for local
underprivileged children. Alexa loves getting to know new people,
spending time outside, and listening to music. She cannot wait to enjoy
all of the opportunities Santa Clara will give her in her upcoming
school year.

Alexander James Elfar
Hometown: Alameda, CA
Saint Joseph-Notre Dame High School
Computer Science & Engineering

Alexander James (A.J.) Elfar is a positive person with a strong work
ethic. He earned the honor of Eagle Scout and has a Black Belt in Tae
Kwon Do. A.J. is a Presidential Scholar, a member of the National Honor
Society, and Salutatorian for the class of 2016 at Saint Joseph-Notre
Dame High School. He has been elected each year for the last four years
as his class representative and officer of his high school’s STEAM club.
A.J. has a strong affinity for the sciences and has spent the past four
summers working at the USDA where he has investigated biodegradable
wrapping films from agricultural surplus products. Last year, A.J.
spearheaded and organized an ice cream sale drive, raising over $1,000
for Free the Children in Kenya, and looks forward to leading similar
social entrepreneurship inspired service projects in the future. AJ is
excited by the opportunities to forge new friendships through
collaboration, learn and grow at SCU and to make positive contributions
to his community.

Christian “Riley” Haase
Hometown: Henderson, NV
Coronado High School
Major: Business

Riley is a National Merit Commended Scholar and an AP Scholar with
Honors. He is an Eagle Scout and has also earned his Eagle Bronze Palm.
He is an avid volleyball player and has played on his high school team
for three years, a local club team for four years, and participated in
many beach volleyball tournaments. He is currently planning a charity
volleyball tournament to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation. He has served as a Youth Ambassador for JDRF since he was 7
years old, explaining the disease to local community leaders, seeking
donations to help find a cure, and thanking donors for their support.
Throughout his senior year in high school, he served as the Youth
Philanthropy Chairman for the One Drop Foundation, a charitable
organization dedicated to providing clean water and education on the use
of clean water to those living in impoverished areas. In this role, he
was responsible for raising awareness among youth about the significance
of investing in clean water. He looks forward to receiving a
well-rounded education encompassing philosophy, business, math, and
literature while at Santa Clara.

Rachael Han
Hometown: Burr Ridge, IL
Hinsdale Central High School
Major: Engineering

Rachael Han has played an active role in many activities at Hinsdale
Central High School, serving as a senator on Student Council and being
on the executive boards for both National Art Honors Society and Peer
Leadership. She is also a varsity member of the Poms Dance team, Speech
team, and Badminton team, the latter two of which she was a state
qualifier. Among these extracurriculars, Rachael also recognizes the
importance of academia. Rachael is a National Merit Finalist and spent
the summer of 2014 interning at the University of Illinois at Chicago
under Dr. Kenneth Brezinsky, a mechanical and chemical engineer, where
she conducted her own research project on jet fuel. The summer of 2015,
Rachael traveled to Costa Rica on a service trip, where she learned the
importance of environmental preservation through completing 39 hours of
service in two weeks in the rural village of Yorkin. This trip inspired
her to look beyond the scope of her local surroundings and gain global
perspective. Rachael prioritizes Santa Clara’s interdisciplinary
curriculum and values the depth of knowledge that results from partaking
in different experiences. In the future, Rachael hopes to leave her mark
on the world through environmental innovation.

Lauren Larson
Hometown: Truckee, CA
Bishop Manogue Catholic High School

Lauren Larson graduated from Bishop Manogue Catholic High School and was
co-salutatorian of her graduating class. Even though she had an hour
long commute to school everyday, she still found ways to be involved as
president of the Sodality club, treasurer of National Honors Society,
and Editor-in-Chief for the yearbook. She was also on the debate team
and on the varsity soccer team that won the regional championships for
the first time during her senior year. Lauren has a passion for service,
and over the course of high school was able to travel to Spain with her
soccer team to train in Barcelona and bring school supplies to a local
orphanage. The following year, she traveled to Guatemala with an
immersion program and volunteered for two weeks teaching English and
painting tables and chairs for the classrooms. This summer, she is
interning at a hospital in Reno to learn more about career opportunities
in the medical field. She is grateful to Santa Clara for not only
allowing her to better herself through education, but to find a path
where she can continually be in service to others.

Sabine Pigg
Hometown: Portland, OR
Woodrow Wilson High School
Major: Chemistry

Sabine Pigg is an active member of her Wilson High School community and
can’t wait to get involved at Santa Clara. As an Associated Student Body
leader in student government, she has co-headed four fundraising
committees, raising a total of over $5,000 for the Community
Transitional School for underprivileged children in Portland. This has
led her to realize her passion for community outreach and service. In
2014, Sabine spent two months of her summer in Costa Rica, living with
two different families, attending school, and learning to adapt to new
linguistic and cultural environments. She also plays varsity tennis and
soccer, competes for Wilson’s Mock Trial team, founded the school
Badminton Club, and is a Chemistry and Math tutor for middle and high
school students. At SCU, Sabine hopes to be able to combine her love of
international studies and community service with the sciences and find a
way to make a difference in the world.

Ashley Ricks
Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA
Milpitas High School
Major: Business

Ashley is a relentless learner, compassionate communicator, perpetual
adventurer, and Disney princess aficionado. In high school, she served
as Vice President of Interact Club and President of Acts of Random
Kindness Club. Ranking in the top 5% of her graduating class of 730
students, she was also a scholar athlete in volleyball, cross country,
and track. She wrote for her school newspaper and was recognized amongst
her peers as Homecoming Queen. Throughout her high school career, she
developed a heart for global altruism, and went on month-long service
trips to the Philippines and Uganda, along with volunteering for a
nonprofit that donates bicycles to children in Bangladesh. She is
tremendously grateful to be a part of the Johnson Scholars program,
hopes to learn more about herself and the world God has put her in along
the way, and is excited to pursue new adventures at SCU.

Nicholas Spragg
Hometown: Naperville, IL
Waubonsie Valley High School
Major: Business

Nicholas Spragg founded two organizations at his high school, both of
which aim to empower students spiritually and emotionally. Through these
initiatives, students have discovered their capacity to explore new
perspectives in a diverse community of individuals. He was the recipient
of the City of Aurora Service Above Self Award in recognition of his
innovative passion. Nick participated in varsity volleyball and placed
third at the USAV Boys’ Junior National Championships. Nick has also
travelled to a Haiti to provide medical relief in multiple rural
communities. This cultural immersion prompted his interest in the
opportunities SCU provides to engage the global community with the
holistic approach of the Jesuit tradition.

Alejandra Fraume Valencia
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Henry T. Gunderson High School
Major: English

Alejandra Fraume Valencia came to the United States from Colombia when
she was seven years old and has dedicated her high school years towards
helping empower others, something that her mom has cultivated in her
through example. As Co-Events Coordinator for her school’s Interact Club
and Co-President of her school’s California Scholarship Federation,
Alejandra has organized over 900 community service hours for students
while still finding time to volunteer herself. She continues to
incorporate her love for helping her community by tutoring Algebra I
students, being a founder of an after-school math homework club and
teaching kids tennis. Alejandra has been recognized as an AP Scholar
with Honors, a National Hispanic Scholar, and in late 2015, was honored
by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce as their Student of
the Year. She is infinitely grateful to be a part of the Johnson
Scholars community and knows that SCU is the perfect environment to
continue pursuing her passions for service, social justice, and growing
better day-by-day.

Sherene Victor
Hometown: Dublin, CA
Valley Christian High School
Major: Computer
Science & Engineering

Sherene is a dedicated and compassionate student who has served in
multiple leadership roles at Valley Christian High School in Dublin. She
has been a captain of the varsity Tennis team and a Global and Student
Ambassador for the International Club. Sherene also enjoys music and the
Performing Arts; she has been on the school’s acapella group (the
MeloDames) and is a section leader for Concert Choir. She has led
multiple community outreach programs in engineering while interning at
the TechHive in UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. Sherene has a
big heart for others and understands that true leadership comes in the
form of servitude. She is excited to a be a part of the Johnson Scholar
community and looks forwards to her years at SCU.

More on the program is available online

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university
located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley,
offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in
arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s
and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one
of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities,
California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates
faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more
information, see


Santa Clara University
Tina Vossugh, 408-829-4836