From Scholars to Volunteers: Supporting the Next Generation of Simon Scholars

Volunteers Dilan Oezkan, Jesus Bravo, Milton Cruz, and Leslie Merino share their college experiences with high school scholars.

As a high school scholar, Jesus Bravo admired the alumni who shared their college experiences and advice. Years later, after graduating from the University of California, Riverside, Jesus’ journey as a Simon Scholar came full circle when he volunteered for an alumni panel discussion.


“Being able to participate in that Q&A session made me realize that I am now in the same shoes as those volunteers I looked up to. I am someone that these scholars can look up to and rely on as part of the Simon Scholars support system.

– Jesus Bravo
Simon Scholars alumnus, Class of 2017
Substitute teacher, Newport Mesa Unified School District

Countless college scholars and alumni like Jesus have sought opportunities to pay it forward and support the next generation of scholars. For alumnus Eric Cuevas—a University of California, Irvine graduate now working at the Walt Disney Company—volunteering is a tangible expression of his gratitude. His personal contribution to a legacy of positive change within the community.


“My decision to volunteer with the Simon Scholars Program was driven by a deep sense of gratitude, a desire to give back to my community, and my belief in the power of mentorship and education to transform lives. It’s a way for me to honor the support I received and to help create similar opportunities for the next generation of students.

– Eric Cuevas
Simon Scholars alumnus, Class of 2013
Leadership Development Training Specialist, The Walt Disney Company

Volunteers support almost every facet of the Simon Scholars program. They: 

  • Participate in college and career panels and new scholar class interviews
  • Co-lead activities and assemble materials for one-day events, like Junior Leadership Day and Scholar Socials
  • Chaperone and lodge with scholars on overnight events, like the Leadership Symposium, Senior Fall Retreat, and College Tours 
The volunteer team wraps up a 3-day overnight Leadership Symposium.

From helping behind the scenes to leading group activities, volunteer contributions are essential to the ongoing success of Simon Scholars. And as more of our 2,000 alumni have sought opportunities to give back, we’re excited to introduce a new volunteer program to make it easy to get involved.

Yarelis Lopez (pictured) and other volunteers welcome high school scholars to the Fall Retreat.

The variety and flexibility of volunteer opportunities ensure any alumnus or college scholar can get involved—no matter their schedule or interests. College Scholar Brandon Nguyen even finds time to volunteer amid his studying at California State University, Fullerton!


“My very first volunteering event was for the Class of 2025 interviews. Connecting with the scholars and learning about their aspirations is amazing. It reminds me of my time as a high school scholar and why I want to give back and volunteer.” 

– Brandon Nguyen
College Scholar

The new volunteer program offers two volunteer groups:

  1. General Volunteers (at least 18 years old)
  2. Volunteer Corps (at least 21 years old):

General volunteers participate as they’re able, which requires less training and no service-hour commitment. For scholars like Micki Smith—an alumna who volunteers regularly since earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California—there’s the Volunteer Corps. This group receives additional training and benefits with an annual commitment of at least 32 service hours.


“Listening to the stories of current scholars and having the opportunity to share my own is what motivates me time and time again to be a part of the activities that the foundation organizes. As a Simon Scholarship recipient myself, it brings me immeasurable joy to give back to the program that gave so much to me. 

– Micki Smith
Simon Scholars alumna, Class of 2011
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Among those benefits is the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and develop valuable skills to thrive in any career. Just ask Jessie Duran, a Class of 2018 Scholar and University of California, Berkeley graduate. In addition to teaching at Garden Grove Unified School District and ​​pursuing her M.Ed in Secondary Education at Grand Canyon University, Jessie also interns with the Simon Scholars volunteer program.


“Coming back as a volunteer was a way for me to give back and reconnect with the program as an alumna. Little did I know that I would later become an intern. I have also seen myself grow professionally… I have learned to lean into discomfort, take a chance, be open-minded, and seek mentorship.

The volunteer program has opened my eyes to new professional interests and relationships. I am forever grateful to be part of such an amazing scholarship program that has poured into both my academic journey and my personal and professional development.

– Jessie Duran
Simon Scholars alumna, Class of 2018
Substitute teacher, Garden Grove Unified School District

Ultimately, Simon Scholars is a tight-knit community whose members learn from and support each other for life. And the volunteer program is an expression of that.

“I’m glad for these volunteering opportunities,” Eric said, “because they unite us all as one big Simon Scholar Family.”

Interested in joining the Simon Scholars Volunteer Program? Email for more information.


About Sara Kuehl

Sara Kuehl has been crafting copy and content for mission-driven brands for more than 15 years. As a freelance writer and editor, she is passionate about the power of the written word to advance the social good. You can find Sara at Root & Bloom Communications or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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