This month, thousands of San Diego County seniors graduated high school. Out of these, 10 will continue Chelsea King’s legacy.
Sixteen months ago, King, a senior at Poway High School, went for a jog near Lake Hodges and never came back. Throughout the investigations that ultimately led to a murder conviction, Brent and Kelly King kept seeing the good in people.
They wanted to give back.
The Kings, who established Chelsea’s Light Foundation last year in honor of their daughter, awarded the first-ever Chelsea’s Light Sunflower Scholarship to 10 San Diego County graduates last week.
“We really want to give kids an opportunity to go through college. We want to help them,” Brent King said. “With Chelsea, in her senior year, she was excited about what she was going to do. We want to continue that as much as we can for other kids and give back to a community that has given so much.”
Nearly 300 students from 58 San Diego County high schools applied for the 10 scholarships. Every application was personally reviewed by Chelsea’s parents. Each recipient reflected an attribute of Chelsea.
“Chelsea’s thirst for knowledge, meeting new people, new experiences ... a love of reading and an innate ability to communicate that in writing, mirrors a lot of what we saw in these kids,” Brent King said.
The scholarships were awarded in two amounts: $2,000 were awarded to nine students and one student received the $10,000 Sparkle Scholarship.
The winners will receive monies from Chelsea’s Light over the following three years if they remain in college. The Sparkle winner will receive an additional $10,000, totaling $20,000; the other winners will get an additional $2,500 for a total of $4,500 each. Each winner was also given a laptop.
Proceeds from the “Finish Chelsea’s Run” 5K fundraising helped fund the scholarships. The next Finish Chelsea’s Run will take place March 3, 2012, in Balboa Park. The funds raised from the next 5K will be earmarked for next year’s scholarships, Brent King said.
Corynn Kolberg from Escondido High School won the $10,000 scholarship.
“I’m still in shock that I’m able to be a part of this,” Kolberg said. “It’s such a huge honor. I have been really impressed with the Kings' story. They are such an inspiration. They have given back so much.”
In addition to maintaining a 4.3 GPA and playing varsity water polo, Kolberg served as chapter president of Best Buddies, which builds one-on-one friendships with people with mental and physical disabilities.
Kolberg compared her work with Best Buddies to the Kings’ work with Chelsea’s law.
“Although someone has a disability, [it] doesn’t mean they don’t have abilities. I speak for people who can’t speak for themselves. In a way, that is what Chelsea’s Light is trying to do,” Kolberg said. “With everything I do, I want to give back.”
Kolberg will attend Wake Forest University.
Kelsey Miller from La Jolla Country Day was one of the four $2,000 scholarships winners from La Jolla.
“Winning is humbling because I never knew Chelsea personally, but a lot of San Diegans did. She was an incredible person,” Miller said.
Miller also showed a spirit of generosity in her work with an online lending organization that helps alleviate poverty.
“Ultimately, I believe in the good in people, and if we give them the catalyst to help themselves, they will do amazing things,” she said.
Miller will attend Harvard University.
Jenna Belknap from Poway High School was one of the $2,000 scholarship winners. She was also close friends with Chelsea.
“I remember [Chelsea’s] love of life and running, and living each day to its fullest,” Belknap said.
Belknap was a three-sport athlete and philanthropist who ran with Chelsea regularly. After Chelsea’s disappearance, she says she started failing classes for the first time, causing her to think she wouldn’t get in to UCLA.
“With the pain that everyone was going through, I didn’t want to run and didn’t care about school anymore,” Belknap said.
Belknap relied on a peer counseling group at Poway to get her through. After being elected president of Peer Counseling for the upcoming school year, Belknap started to look positively toward the last two years of high school, despite the pain of losing a close friend. She graduated with a 4.1 GPA.
“Every time I run, it’s hard not to think about her,” Belknap said. “But I realized running was a positive way to remember my friend. And this scholarship seemed like this is what Chelsea would have wanted me to do.”
Belknap will join the triathlon team at UCLA.
Lyle Ikeuchi, also from Poway High School, won a $2,000 scholarship.
“The Kings are fantastic people,” Ikeuchi said. “For the Kings to welcome me to the family with the scholarship is one of the more gratifying things to have happen in my life.”
This is not the first family Ikeuchi has felt connected to, outside of his own.
“I’ve lived in poverty throughout life,” he said. “I was even homeless for a short time—struggling with hunger.”
Because of his father’s inability to provide for Ikeuchi, he was forced to live with another family during his junior year.
“After the move, I had better relationships with teachers and got involved,” Ikeuchi said. “I had a better attitude at school. I even started going to local middle schools to tutor kids in engineering. I organized events, helped with digital media program and videos.”
He says his positive attitude got him through with a 3.1 GPA. Ikeuchi's attitude and generosity, Brent King said, is what left a lasting impression on him and his wife.
“Lyle is a person who wants to be involved in making their community a better place,” King said.
Ikeuchi will attend the University of New Mexico.