CAWG Foundation Awards $30,000 in Student Scholarships

Jim Rogers Funding

The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Foundation has awarded $30,000 in college scholarships to six students. The scholarships are awarded annually to students whose parent or legal guardian is employed by a California winegrape grower.

“All of the amazing scholarship recipients are inspirational because of their unwavering dedication to learning, volunteering and leading,” said Davindar Mahil, chair of the CAWG Foundation board of directors. “We applaud them for their outstanding accomplishments, hard work and their drive to make a difference. Some of the recipients are the first in their family to attend college. The CAWG Foundation is honored to provide these scholarships and show our support for vineyard employees who are valued members of our winegrape industry family.”

Each year the CAWG Foundation board selects several recipients from high schools throughout the state. Scholarship selection is based on scholastic ability, financial need, community involvement, leadership and a 500-word essay. Since the program’s inception in 1998, the foundation has awarded $494,500 in scholarships. Funds are raised through the generous donations of members of CAWG and the California wine community.

The four-year scholarships are $8,000 each for students attending a University of California or California State University campus. The two-year college scholarships are $2,000 each for students attending a California community college. 

  • Four-Year University Scholarship Recipients / $8,000 each
    • Angeli Aquino, Calistoga, Calistoga High School
    • Melissa Castillo, Livermore, Livermore High School
    • Alexandria Ramirez, Hollister, San Benito High School
  • Two-Year Community College Scholarship Recipient / $2,000
    • Vanessa Jimenez Ramirez, Shandon, Shandon High School
    • Yasmin Rodriguez, Shandon, Shandon High School
    • Anahi Ruiz, Cloverdale, Cloverdale High School


Angeli Aquino, Calistoga, Calistoga High School

Achieving the American Dream has been instilled in Angeli since she immigrated to the United States at 6 years old. Angeli has challenged herself to be a conscientious, hard-working and high-achieving student. She excelled with difficult classes, earning a top-ranking 4.22 GPA, and with extracurricular activities. Angeli played volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field. She served as ASB president and Interact Club president, was a member of the Soroptomist Club, and volunteered as a youth basketball coach. Additionally, she held a part-time job as a lifeguard during the year. Angeli plans to attend UCLA, major in nursing and someday earn a master’s degree. Her teacher wrote that Angeli is “one of the most dedicated, hardworking, responsible and dependable students I have seen in 14 years of teaching” and “will achieve success and make positive contributions as a leader and problem solver wherever she goes in life.”

Melissa Castillo, Livermore, Livermore High School

Melissa arrived in the United States as a young child and was passionate about learning English. Facing hardships, she found hope and worked diligently in what she calls the “land of opportunity.” Her hard work in high school, which included several AP classes, resulted in a 4.12 GPA. Melissa’s school activities were lacrosse, National Honor Society, Interact Club, Link Crew and Latinos Unidos Club. Through these, she learned leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Melissa works several hours per week at a winery, interned at Kaiser Permanente’s oncology radiation department, and volunteered for many years for a church charity organization. Her goal is to major in biology and attend medical school, and the scholarship will help further her education and a career in the medical field helping impoverished people. Her teacher wrote, “Melissa is a bright, compassionate and ambitious person” and “any college would be wildly improved by her presence on campus.”

Alexandria Ramirez, Hollister, San Benito High School

Opportunities and challenges have shaped Alexandria into the person she is today: a highly-motivated leader and ambitious student with a strong work ethic and positive attitude. She balanced academics, part-time work and myriad extracurricular activities throughout high school, and had a long list of leadership roles, awards and achievements. She was extremely involved with FFA, through which she held officer positions, participated in speaking contests and earned three FFA degrees. She was also a youth ambassador for the 33rd District Ag Association. One of her main community service activities is Guide Dogs for the Blind, which trains puppies for the visually-impaired. With agriculture at the center of her educational and career goals, she plans to major in ag communications and become a high school ag teacher. Alexandria’s assistant principal wrote that she “will continue to have an internal drive to be the best at everything she does and will do whatever it takes while maintaining high morals and standards.”

Vanessa Jimenez Ramirez, Shandon, Shandon High School

Vanessa believes that anything can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance. She has successfully managed her academic and extracurricular responsibilities with family, job and community commitments. Vanessa has been involved with student government, serving as class secretary and treasurer. She played a variety of sports, volunteered many hours doing softball statistics, and participated in FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experience activities. Beyond school, she serves in her community and holds a part-time job. As the first one in her family to attend college, Vanessa plans to attend a community college, pursue a degree in human services and become a social worker. He counselor wrote, “I am consistently impressed with Vanessa’s strive for excellence, self-discipline and growth potential. She is a prime example of a student that can be an academically-sound student, well-rounded and caring individual even when faced with challenges.”

Yasmin Rodriguez, Shandon, Shandon High School

Yasmin is the first generation to go to college, and she believes that getting the right education is vital to making a difference and achieving goals. A diligent honor roll student with a 3.8 GPA, she prioritized academics while being actively involved throughout high school with the FFA program and softball team. With FFA, she earned the greenhand degree and learned public speaking skills. In her community, Yasmin has volunteered for the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County for the past few years, participated in her church’s Chosen program for confirmation, and works as a babysitter. Yasmin plans to attend Cuesta College and pursue a degree and career in social work, specifically foster care. Her teacher wrote, “I have found her to be exceptionally hard working, focused, kind and generous. Her ability to stay laser-focused on her goals and make the sacrifices necessary to reach those goals is truly admirable.”

Anahi Ruiz, Cloverdale, Cloverdale High School

Anahi’s parents told her, “school is your future,” acknowledging the value of education. She feels lucky to have the opportunity to attend college, which her parents weren’t able to do. Anahi overcame adversity with the tragic loss of three family members during high school, but she persevered in her classes. She has been deeply involved in community endeavors, investing at least 700 volunteer hours and fundraising for causes over the past four years. Those groups include Key Club, Children’s Miracle Network and Save the Rain. She also plays tennis, attends Upward Bound, and holds jobs at a law office and restaurant. Anahi plans to attend Santa Rosa Junior College, pursue a degree in administrative justice or business marketing, and seek a career in law. Citing her intelligence, effort and strength, her counselor wrote, “I have not encountered a student able to fight her way out of a challenge and adversity quite like Anahi” and “she will be more than successful in college and beyond.”

About the California Association of Winegrape Growers Foundation The CAWG Foundation is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that awards scholarships to high school seniors whose parent or legal guardian is employed by a California winegrape grower. For more information, visit