Staff Report

The Vineyard Team Scholarship Program Team awarded $26,000 in scholarships this year, the largest amount since the fund’s inception in 2015.

Additionally, four first-generation college students are entering their senior years after receiving the Vineyard Team scholarship multiple times.

All of the students awarded scholarships are children of farmworkers on the Central Coast.

Arising from growers’ interest to educate and guide themselves towards sustainable winegrowing practices, the Vineyard Team has become an internationally recognized leader in the sustainability movement since 1994.

 “We’re thrilled to be able to offer these scholarships to these amazing young adults. For these vineyard employees who have spent their lives contributing to our industry, supporting their children’s educational pursuits is the least we can do,” said Vineyard Team Executive Director Kris Beal. “It represents a fulfillment of the American Dream for these families, which is so evident with the pride and gratitude expressed on their faces.”

Sandy Garcia was born in King City, where she was the valedictorian of her high school class. She is enrolled at UCLA and hopes to study marketing or public relations.

Her marketing internship at startup Chippin Snacks and role as supervisor at UCLA’s Competitive Sports Program are helping her work toward this goal.

She also participates in the Bruin Women for Business Club, Undergraduate Association of Communication and Student Accounting Society.

Leonardo Ruiz is one of four children of parents who work in agriculture. Now in his final year at UCSB, Ruiz has always had his sights set on graduating from a four-year college; he will be the first of his family to do so.

“I want to prove to my parents that all of their sacrifices are worth it,” said the senior. After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree and attending graduate school, Ruiz hopes to have a career in robotics or bioengineering.

Evelyn Alvarez recently sent the Vineyard Team a heartfelt letter expressing her “sincere and immense” gratitude for the support provided by the scholarship program.

“When I share this extraordinary experience with other people I always refer to the Vineyard Team as a member of my family because that is what you mean to me; a family that is there to support me every step of the way and help guide me towards finding my place in this world and fulfilling my purpose.”

Alvarez is a senior at Cal Poly, where she is completing a fungicide resistance project with Dr. Shunping Ding. Her hope is to pursue a post-graduate career in viticulture with a focus on vineyard management. She explains that the Vineyard Team’s impact on promoting sustainable winegrowing practices along with her father’s “honorable work in vineyards” inspired her to study viticulture.

Michelle Aguilar received the Vineyard Team scholarship for two years during her college career at Fresno State, where she is working to obtain a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology with an emphasis on communicative disorders.

Growing up, she learned English while attending school in the Salinas Valley, which was a difficult challenge given her inability to communicate when she first arrived. She plans to return to her community as a bilingual speech pathologist and offer much needed support to first-generation students like herself.

Students like Garcia, Ruiz, Alvarez and Aguilar are able to receive these scholarships thanks to support from a collective of Vineyard Team members. Scholarships are offered each spring. Interested applicants can visit for more information.

Visit for more information about the organization.