The Mercy Hospital Auxiliary helped launch the dreams of another dozen medically minded local students at Serrano Country Club on March 15. The annual scholarship luncheon adding another chapter to the Auxiliary’s 37-year tradition of service to the hospital and the communities it serves.
This year’s recipients included 10 local high school students, one employee of Mercy Folsom Hospital and one auxiliary member. Each received $1,100 to offset the cost of their educations.
Scholarship committee members Carole Sharkey, Judi Baldi and Nick Ferrari took turns summarizing the accomplishments and aspirations of each recipient, evoking tears from their parents and cheers from everyone else when they were called to the podium.
After posing for photos with their scholarship each was handed the microphone. The gratitude and humility that followed was as impressive as the resumes of public service and academic achievement that earned these amazing young people their scholarships.
Hospital President Michael Ricks, now in his fifth month on the job, was on hand, eager to meet the auxiliary. The affable exec quickly won over the room, visiting each table and engaging auxiliary members, students and family.
In brief remarks from the podium he assured the auxiliary that their hospital was financially strong, with a bottom line of roughly $21 million last year, despite serving a growing percentage of uninsured and Medi-Cal patients.
He hopes to roll that profit into a new $20 million oncology center on the Folsom campus, he said. Plans are not finalized.
The accomplishments of the class of 2013 seemed other-worldly at times. Folsom High Renaissance man Kevin Yang studied stem cells at UC Davis and conducted award-winning gene therapy research while spending 10 hours each week practicing violin and 14 hours on piano. In his free time he helped out at Mercy San Juan’s Neuro-science department.
Kevin is also the top ranked student in his class. He wants to study biology and become a doctor.
Kimberly Berg’s academics were off the charts, landing her the No. 8 spot at Oak Ridge High School this year. Her academic decathlon team earned a first-place finish in the Super Quiz. An impressive resume of service work involved lots of tutoring, including volunteer time with underprivileged kids at White Rock Village.
Kimberly plans to study genetics and hopes to do research. In her senior year she was invited to the prestigious UC Davis Young Scholars Program where she studied plant genetics. She hopes to attend the University of California, Berkeley.
“Science is endlessly fascinating,” she said. “It’s all about discovery and research.”
Jesslyn Lane has an impressive volunteer resume and landed the No. 17 academic spot at Oak Ridge High School, collecting a wall full of recognition and awards along the way. But how many other Honor Society members can say they’re also a prima ballerina?
Just 30 hours after the award luncheon, Jesslyn took the stage as Alice in the Ballet Folsom production of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The performance was a fitting close to her student dance career. She had the Cinderella role in last year’s production and the Little Alice role in 2004.
She spent an estimated 500 hours rehearsing for the current role, plus nine hours per week on technique, she said.
Jesslyn wants to become a pediatric nurse, a choice she made in part because of the hospital time she logged when her sister was diagnosed with Leukemia seven years ago. Jesslyn raised more than $10,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in support of her sister, who is currently in remission, she said.
She’s been accepted into the nursing program at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and is also considering Point Loma Nazarene.
Aren’t prima ballerinas also prima donnas? “Not at all,” she said. “We’re all super close, not like ‘Black Swan.’”
Her father Cary was beaming afterward. “I look at how mature she is and what a great person she is and it really inspires me,” he said.
The scholarships are funded by proceeds from the Mercy Folsom Gift Shop. This year’s $13,200 giveaway was a far cry from the non-profit’s first $100 scholarship in 1978.
Virginia Bennett remembers it well. “We had a spaghetti dinner, and we also sold pies in front of the El Dorado Hills Raley’s store,” said the clear-eyed octogenarian who is credited with founding the auxiliary in 1976, 13 years before the current hospital opened.
Back then it was the Twin Lakes Auxiliary, formed by members of the El Dorado Hills Newcomers Club, said Bennett.
The Newcomers have spawned important local organizations and institutions, including the El Dorado Hills Library and the Clarksville Region Historical Society over the years.
The Auxiliary attracted 86 women in its inaugural year, said Bennett, who recalls that many, including her, were military wives.
Bennett was the auxiliary president in 1980 when Mercy Hospital bought the old Twin Lakes Hospital, which was located near the current Folsom Police Station. The current Mercy Hospital was built nine years later.