Students and donors celebrate the power of scholarships at luncheon

scholarship luncheon

University of the Pacific's annual scholarship luncheon connects scholarship recipients with donors. 

Paloma Morales ‘25 draws great inspiration from her parents. Her mother and father immigrated from Mexico to the United States to provide a better life for their only child, and always encouraged her to dream. 

“Seeing all the sacrifices they made—leaving their country, venturing into the unknown and living paycheck to paycheck—has motivated me to continue my education. They wanted me to have an opportunity that they couldn’t,” she said. 

Morales shared her story with more than 200 guests at University of the Pacific’s Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon on Feb. 29. Since 2014, the event has allowed students who receive donor-funded scholarships to meet and converse with their donors.  

With the help of scholarships, Morales is now pursuing an English degree at Pacific in hopes of one day becoming a college professor and increasing Latinx representation in the field. 

This year’s luncheon matched donors and students from all three of Pacific’s campuses and all nine colleges and schools. 

Morales was one of two student speakers who shared how scholarships have impacted them personally. Growing up, she was the only English speaker in her family, serving as translator for her parents, and was the first to finish high school.  

She enrolled in San Joaquin Delta College and met a counselor who had graduated from Pacific and the Community Involvement Program. With that counselor’s guidance, Morales recognized scholarships made attending Pacific possible for her. She hasn’t looked back since. 

“The CIP program allowed me the privilege of attending Pacific without any financial burden. The amount of support I’ve received from this program, from classmates, staff, and alumni, has impacted my experience here,” Morales said.  

“Scholarships allow students like me the freedom to pursue higher education wholeheartedly. I don’t have to burden my family with the education they strived for me to have, nor do I have to work multiple jobs to stay afloat. I’m able to fully dedicate myself to my education and give back to the Stockton community.” 

In fiscal year 2023, the university distributed $11.9 million in endowed scholarships to 1,290 students. This was nearly $1.5 million more than the previous year and supported nearly 100 more students. 

Water polo co-captain Reuel D'Souza was one of two student speakers who shared the impact scholarships have on their lives

Water polo co-captain Reuel D'Souza was one of two student speakers at the luncheon.

Those students included Reuel D’Souza, from Canada. D’Souza is co-captain of Pacific’s men’s water polo team and a member of the Canadian men’s national team. He completed his first year at Pacific remotely while competing abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic.

D’Souza, a health, exercise and sport sciences major, was grateful to know that he could both study at Pacific and pursue his passion.

“The idea of getting my education while competing at a high level was of the utmost importance to my family and me,” he told the luncheon audience. “I wanted to be a well-rounded person and athlete. Pacific’s program offered me an opportunity to play polo and study without financial burden, and to just come in and be myself,” he said.

D’Souza was honored to be entrusted to lead the water polo team and serve as its role model.

“There is a ‘student’ in front of ‘athlete’ for a reason. You can’t just strive for excellence in the pool, it is necessary to be excellent in your everyday life,” D’Souza said.

“Following my career at Pacific I have big plans to compete at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. Knowing I have a degree in my back pocket, I can get to work with a full commitment to my dreams. The education I have received allows me to invest in my life and be the man I was meant to be.”

Music performance major Kailey Diggs performs "Climb Every Mountain."

Music performance major Kailey Diggs performs "Climb Every Mountain."

The luncheon featured a stirring rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ sung by Kailey Diggs ’25, a music performance major and scholarship recipient. Guests were also serenaded by a string quartet from the Conservatory of Music, most of whom also receive scholarships.

Scott Biedermann ’05, ’20, vice president for development and alumni relations, noted that 98% of Pacific students rely on some form of financial aid.  

“I cannot underscore enough that these students are able to be here because of our donors’ unwavering generosity and confidence in them,” Biedermann told luncheon guests. “By believing in these students, you help them believe in themselves. Thank you.”