Making Dreams Come True 1

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation

For many in San Diego County, The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is known for providing scholarships to deserving San Diego youth so they may continue to pursue their educational interests. The organization was named for Don Diego, aka Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $797,000 in scholarships to 177 students and in agriculture education grants.

This year, The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation will offer a record total of a whopping $65,000 in 2017 college scholarships to 27 outstanding students who reside in San Diego County and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This 2017 program of substantially increased monetary awards and recipients marks a major expansion for Don Diego, which began in 1986, providing $1,000 scholarships to three students. In 2016, 12 students shared a total of $40,500 in scholarships.

The deadline to apply is March 20, 2017. Finalist interviews will take place in May. Recipients will be honored at the exclusive Don Diego Gala to be held during the 2017 San Diego County Fair. Each recipient also will receive a personalized Legacy Brick to be installed at the Don Diego Legacy Brick Fountain at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Depending upon the category in which a student applies (one category per student), eligibility is open to high school seniors planning to attend a two- or four-year college; in one category, also to students currently enrolled in college.

Scholarships of $5,000, $2,500, $1,500 (new!) and $1,000 will be awarded in each of four categories: 4-H, FFA, Employee and Exhibitor/Participant. The $10,000 in FFA scholarships is provided through the generosity of the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation. The $10,000 in Exhibitor/Participant scholarships is provided through the generosity of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. Two 2,500 Vocational Education scholarships will be awarded to students who intend to pursue a vocational education curriculum at a community college or accredited trade school, with the goal of obtaining an AA/AS degree or certificate.

New this year, the Foundation will administer what is now known as the Don Diego Junior Livestock scholarships for participants in the Fair’s junior livestock auction. One $5,000, one $2,500, one $1,500 and six $1,000 scholarships will be awarded. The coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship honoring the “father” of Don Diego, Bob Spanjian, will be awarded to the single most outstanding of all 27 applicants. For categories other than Employee, applicants must be high school seniors graduating in Spring 2017. New this year, applicants in the Employee category may also be currently enrolled in college. This change accommodates Fairgrounds employers who often prefer to hire employees who are at least 18 years of age.

Remember, the deadline to apply is March 20, 2017. Finalist interviews will take place in May! Full eligibility requirements and applications are at