City Heights’ Nuñez Arrives as USD’s First Ocean Leader Scholar


Living in an urban, diverse and often underserved community, Yajaira Nuñez faced challenges in creating and pursuing a vision for her future. Her family’s unstable home life and the need to care for her younger brother left her with little opportunity to focus on her own goals.

Her grade-point average was not very strong but she was selected to participate in Ocean Discovery Institute’s programs in 2009. The opportunity to participate in research in the Sea of Cortez through the nonprofit program sparked her interest and inspired her to achieve a 3.75 GPA in her senior year at Hoover High School in the diverse City Heights neighborhood of San Diego.

Nuñez knew attending a four-year university and receiving the financial aid she needed would be a challenge at a time when many institutions are under severe financial pressures. But Wednesday she will begin college at the University of San Diego as the school’s first Ocean Leader Scholar.

She will be supported through her four years at USD, receiving tuition and housing along with assistance through the Marine Sciences and Environmental Studies Department. This summer, she participated in the university’s Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) program on wetlands restoration in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. (Full Story Inside USD