Two Firebaugh High seniors were among 17 central valley students honored by the Westlands Water District with scholarships to continue their education.
Manuel Bautista and Agustin Lopez were honored at a Firebaugh City Council meeting for the scholarship presentation, which was made by Westland’s Public Affairs Director Elizabeth Jonasson.
“Westlands Water District is proud to announce the recipients of its 2023 Westlands Scholarship,” Jonasson said at the meeting. “The annual Westlands Scholarship program recognizes and rewards exceptional graduating seniors at area high schools.
“This year, the District is proud to extend the scholarship to support 17 graduating seniors in achieving their higher-education goals,” Jonasson said. “Each scholarship recipient was selected based on a combination of academic achievements, leadership, contributions to the local community, and future career goals.”
Bautista is heading to Fresno State with the goal of becoming a forensic pathologist. Speaking of the importance of agriculture on the Westside, Bautista said that the importance of water to maintain the communities of the west side of the valley is critical.
“Communities such as Firebaugh, Mendota and Tranquillity are filled with people that are hardworking and proud to provide food for the world,” said Bautista. “These communities have a history that is important to maintain. Growing up I would see my community leave early in the morning and return late at night, providing the labor for growing and distributing agricultural products. They do these jobs with pride and dignity.”
Besides being an excellent student, Bautista is also a three-sport athlete, competing in football, basketball and baseball.
“Manuel comes from a first class family and is a fine young man,” said Alex Gutierrez, his baseball coach. He has excellent grades and an excellent work ethic. He will go on and be a great productive citizen.”
Agustin Lopez has his future plans all laid out. He will attend Grand Canyon University in Arizona, get his degree in music and return to Firebaugh to take over the school’s music program.
“As a descendent of farmers and people that have worked in the fields of the Central Valley, I’ve seen the crops at the worst, and the best,” said Lopez. “Agricultural water is of utmost importance in California and specifically in the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.”
Besides being involved in music, he is also a member of the Firebaugh High track team.
Jose Ledesma, the Firebaugh School District music director, said that Lopez has been an invaluable member of the program. Noting that Lopez plays the tuba, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar, Ledesma said that he is also the program’s Band Council President.
“Agustin has been an incredibly dedicated member through his middle school and high school experience and stands as a pillar of leadership for the rest of our band students”, said Ledesma. “Agustin is one of my most reliable students, always asking for more tasks to accomplish for the benefit of our music program.
“On top of his musical commitment,” Ledesma added, “Agustin goes above and beyond by helping at all recruitment and fundraising events while also staying on top of his academic studies. He is one of my top students and has made a remarkable mark on our music program and the culture of Firebaugh High School. He will continue to make an impact in the community of Firebaugh for years to come.”