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Mon, 27 May 2024 21:19:41 -0500
2020-05-12 Print


Students awarded The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarship for the 2020/21 School Year


Today, the Autism Society of California, the Finnigan family, and the Community Foundation for Monterey County proudly announces the names of three highly qualified California students who won Achievement Scholarship awards through the National Achievement Scholarship Program.

Marcus Lo of Pebble Beach received this year’s 1st place scholarship award of $2,000. Danielle Gmyr of San Marcos was awarded the 2nd place $1,000 scholarship and Colby Morales of Santee received the 3rd place award of $750. The Scholarship Selection Committee selected these three individuals based on the breadth of their experiences, personal determination and demonstrated ability to overcome adversity, overall positive outlook, and commitment to pursuing challenging careers assisting others, especially those on the autism spectrum.

Marcus Lo will be graduating from Carmel High School in June 2020 and plans to continue his education at the University of Southern California. His many extracurricular interests and activities include leadership positions on Carmel High’s Robotics Team, Mathletics Team, Science Olympiad Team, ASB, and Business Club. In addition, Marcus has been a volunteer teacher to Chinese orphans in Henan Province, where he was assigned primarily to mentor students with disabilities, including autism. This experience inspired him to seek a dual degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship, with the stated goal “. . . to bring online education to rural orphanages, specifically for children with autism or learning disabilities. Educating them on personal finance and high-income skills are [sic] important to me because I believe orphans like me should have an opportunity to be successful no matter our circumstances.”

Danielle Gmyr will graduate later this month from Santa Fe Christian High School in Solana Beach. She will attend Biola University and major in Biomedical Research/Pre-Med, with the long-term plan of pursuing a professional career in scientific research, studying autism. Danielle has taken the first step toward that admirable goal by enrolling in Biola’s Stewart Honors Science program, a prestigious community where she will be one of twelve incoming students working closely with faculty, conducting original research, collaborating with world-renowned scientists, and ultimately, publishing her work in a scientific journal. Along with her educational and professional goals, Danielle hopes that furthering her education will offer her even more opportunities “. . . to grow as an encourager and be a positive role model, proving to others that a diagnosis doesn’t define or limit you.”

Colby Morales will graduate from High Tech High International, a full-inclusion charter school, in June 2020 and plans to continue his education at Point Loma Nazarene University. Though still in High School, Colby has already distinguished himself as a strong self-advocate and mentor to his peers with autism spectrum disorders, having developed and given original informational presentations on autism to various classes and groups within his school community and assisted other students in better advocating for their own needs. Colby intends to earn a degree in Engineering Physics which he plans to integrate with his advocacy and mentoring work by helping to create more inclusive opportunities for diverse thinkers within the robotics and engineering communities. “Advocating for students with ASD and creating a place that welcomes them into a career and community they can thrive in is my ultimate goal.”

The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarship Fund honors the memory of Matthew Finnigan, a young adult with ASD whose life was taken before he could achieve his goal of helping others. Matthew was attending college in Monterey and planned to use his educational interests in STEM fields, as well as experiences facing and overcoming challenges, to research and analyze biological and environmental factors and develop interventions that might reduce the symptoms of ASD. When asked what is truly important in life, Matthew wrote, "You have a legacy that will live on as long as their stories about you keep being told," and reminded his reader to ". . . always look on the bright side of life." This permanently endowed fund was established with gifts from the Finnigan family and friends, and matching funds from Chevron, to assist students with ASD whose interests align with those Matthew had, to realize their educational goals.

The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarship program is open to California students with ASD (DSM-IV or later criteria) studying full-time or part-time and pursuing a career in the fields of Psychiatry, Psychology, Statistics, Chemistry, Math, researching ways of reducing the challenges of autism, or a career which will help adolescents on the autism spectrum. The Autism Society of California is honored to assist the Community Foundation and the Finnigan family in the application and selection process for this important award.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Beth Burt at 1-800-869-7069 or email at

Contact Info
Autism Society of California
3268 Governor Drive
San Diego, CA 92122]]

Phone: (800) 869-7069