Michelle Lyu thought it was a little weird when she ran into her father in the parking lot of Diamond Bar High School on a school day.
It all became apparent later when her father and a group of people the high school senior didn’t know came into her yearbook class to present her with a $40,000 college scholarship.
The news about being selected as one of this year’s 30 Edison Scholars was just sinking in when Athena Chen, a senior in Michelle’s math class, sidled up to her a few days later and whispered, “Did you get the Edison letter?”
It was only then that Michelle realized Diamond Bar was one of only three schools in Southern California to have more than one Edison Scholar. Silverado High School in Victorville also had two Edison Scholars and Porterville High School had three.
Unlike Michelle, Athena did not get a surprise announcement in class, but rather learned the news while studying at home. Athena was Skyping with an online study friend when her mother interrupted her to hand her a letter from Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison.
It was only after Athena read the letter several times that she realized she, too, had won one of the coveted scholarships.
Edison International created the scholarships to help minority, low-income and underrepresented students in Southern California who plan to major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Only 30 were selected from the nearly 2,800 students who applied.
Michelle plans to study chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and ultimately go into research.
“I anticipate conducting cutting-edge research in a lifetime of science,” she said.
Athena won an early entrance to Northwestern University near Chicago where she will major in mathematical methods and social sciences. She hopes to become a technical consultant at a nonprofit helping the disabled.
The two girls were among the 2015 Edison Scholars recognized at a recent reception at SCE headquarters in Rosemead.
SCE President Pedro Pizarro praised the students for choosing to major in STEM studies, noting how rewarding his own education in the sciences had been. He started college at Harvard as a pre-med major, but switched to chemistry. He later earned a PhD in chemistry at Caltech.
“My science background really opened up doors,” Pizarro said.
Michelle has similar hopes for her future. She was inspired to pursue chemistry by her father who has suffered from Hepatitis B since birth.
His medication costs up to $6,000 a year, which became a major burden for the family after her father lost his job in 2010 and was unemployed for most of the next three years.
Winning the scholarship convinced Michelle she is on the right course.
“Believe in your dreams and just go for it,” she said.