Ricardo Hernandez Espinoza, a student at Orange High School, will always remember the moment when he learned that he’d been accepted into a unique full-ride scholarship program that would mentor him through high school and prepare him for entry into Chapman University.

“My mom and dad and two sisters were around me,” Espinoza recalls. “When I opened it, the letter said I was accepted. We all just broke down crying.”

Those tears of joy were thanks to the Simon Family Foundation. The Simon STEM Scholars Program launched in 2015 as a partnership between Chapman and Orange High School. The program offers select students who plan to major in a STEM discipline – science, technology, engineering or math – unique mentorship to prepare them for admission to Chapman, as well as a full scholarship. Recently the foundation deepened its commitment to the Chapman partnership, endowing it with a $6 million gift.

Simon Scholar Kevin Jimenez Alvarado ’23 credits the scholarship support for setting him on a path to success. As a child, he had visited Chapman with his mother, who worked in the dining hall. He frolicked in Attallah Piazza and told his friends, “I’m going to go to school here.”

Later, he realized that the price of any college degree would be beyond his family’s financial means. While he considered other options, including enlisting in the military or taking on significant student loan debt, a high school counselor encouraged him to apply to the Simon Scholars program.

Acceptance changed his trajectory. He’s majoring in biology and plans to pursue nursing school after graduation.

“I wouldn’t have been able to make it to Chapman on my own,” says Simon Scholar Ricardo Hernandez Espinoza, who credits the Simon program of high school mentoring and scholarship support to his success at Chapman.

Just as important, he adds that he probably wouldn’t be the person he is today without Simon support. The program’s leadership activities helped him grow into a greater sense of himself, he says.

“It’s changed me a lot,” says Alvarado, who volunteers at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. “It’s taught me the importance of working on a team and how you can go further as a team. And that it’s important to be there for others, too.”