Editorial: Class of 2017 Deserves Recognition, Support

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It’s also a good time to take special note of the 93 top students selected as Ventura County Star Scholars this year. Most, if not all, will be headed to college soon, and hopefully the scholarships they receive will lessen their need for student loans.

The Star Scholar program was created by Julius Gius, editor of the Ventura County Star-Free Press (now The Star) from 1960 to 1988. After his death in 1996, the Julius Gius Star Scholarship Award was established to help these top students and honor all that Gius meant to The Star and Ventura County.

The students are nominated by their high schools and then write essays, which are judged by a panel from The Star. The winner earns the $5,000 Gius scholarship. The others receive scholarships of several hundred dollars from the Ventura County Community Foundation.

This year’s winner, announced at an awards ceremony this month hosted by the foundation, was Brian Nguyen, an 18-year-old from Rio Mesa High School. Brian excelled in all three areas the Star Scholar program aims to promote — academic excellence, leadership and community service — and we are proud to have him represent Ventura County.

Brian led a student organization, First Chapter, that distributes free books and school supplies to needy students. He helped First Chapter, previously a Rio Mesa student club, become a nonprofit organization. The group has distributed more than 25,000 books since its inception.

“It teaches you to be almost humble and gives you a sense of where you belong in the community,” says Brian, who comes from a single-parent, low-income family himself. Now, he is moving on to study mechanical engineering at Stanford University with hopes of becoming an astronaut.

The other good news for Brian and his fellow graduates is a job outlook that continues to improve after the horrors of the Great Recession a decade ago. Employers plan to hire 5 percent more college graduates this year than last year, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey. And the unemployment rate for recent college graduates has declined to 5.6 percent.

The bad news is student loan debt, now averaging about $30,000 for undergraduates who must take out loans. Interest rates on new federal loans are rising in July, and President Trump’s proposed budget calls for numerous cuts, including subsidized student loans and forgiveness programs for those going into teaching and other public service jobs.

We hope Congress rejects shortchanging the young people in our nation seeking higher education. Brian Nguyen and the rest of the Class of 2017 deserve much better.

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