Scholarship fund powers a legacy of student success

Driving Dreams of Higher Education

In 1975, Mike Stobbe bought a 1967 Jaguar XKE coupe that looked like it could have come right off the set of “The Avengers,” the 1960s British spy show. The now retired engineer says, “I’ve always loved British sports cars, but I had no idea how to maintain it.” This was decades before YouTube instructional videos and Mike recalls that he kept the car going himself, holding a “manual in one hand and a wrench in the other.” Over the 46 years he owned the car, he’s had virtually every nut and bolt apart.

Mike recently sold the car at an online auction house for $89,000. In a note to the buyer he wrote, “Thank you. You have enabled 18 kids to get started on a college education.” That’s because 100% of the sale price, plus all of the auction house’s commission, went to support the Judith C. Stobbe Scholarship in memory of Mike’s late wife, a beloved kindergarten teacher at Alianza Charter School in Watsonville.

Left: Mike & Judy at home; Right: Judy in her classroom at Alianza

Protecting Education

“Judy was a devoted believer in bilingual education,” Mike says. When it became clear in 1998 that Prop 227 was going to pass in California, effectively ending bilingual education, “Judy sprang into action.” She teamed up with Michael Jones, the now-retired principal of Alianza, to write a public charter to preserve the school’s bilingual education program and to expand the K-6 school to the eighth grade.“ Judy was an incredible educator,” says Jones, who met Judy when he was a student teacher in the early 70s and then worked with her for nearly 20 years at Alianza. “Not only was she a tremendous teacher in the classroom with the children, but she was a successful leader with her colleagues and an accomplished academic researcher contributing to textbook development.”

Mike says she loved her students with her whole heart. “We didn’t have children ourselves, but all of those students throughout the years--those were her kids.” Judy passed away in 2008 at age 57 and five years later, the first award from the scholarship that bears her name was made. “It’s an unusual scholarship,” says Mike, “because it goes to 8th graders but they don’t get the financial award until they graduate from high school.” Mike structured the scholarship this way so it could benefit students at the school Judy loved so dearly and hopefully inspire them to keep going. “Alianza serves a relatively poor farming community, and in most cases, these kids will be the first in their families to receive an advanced education,” he says. “Receiving the scholarships gives them the self-confidence to set their personal bar so high that they can’t possibly fail. Every one of them is going to be a great success.”

Finding a Fiscal Home

The Judith C. Stobbe Scholarship found its fiscal home at the Community Foundation in 2018 to support Mike’s wishes, steward the gift and work with the school to award the students scholarships. “I want this scholarship to make the biggest impact,” Mike reflects, “and the Community Foundation is a good partner along with Alianza and the Pajaro Valley Education Foundation in weighing all the options.” Currently, the $5,000 scholarship is awarded to five students per year, but with the sale of the Jaguar, the program may soon be enlarged.

Left: Michelle Ramirez-Trejo & Mike Stobbe in 2013. Right: Michelle in 2021, UCLA grad

Fulfilling Dreams

For Michelle Ramirez-Trejo, earning the very first Judith C. Stobbe Scholarship made a huge impact indeed. Michelle was selected in 2013, received the monetary award in 2017, and just graduated from UCLA in 2021 with degrees in psychology and Spanish. In a recent letter to Mike, she shared that receiving the scholarship helped her hold on to her dream of higher education. “When school would become difficult, I always had a certificate, one reminding me of the requirements I must meet to receive my scholarship, one that reminded me that if I completed such requirements I would be a high school graduate with a seal of biliteracy enrolled in an institution of higher education. Every time I held this certificate, I was reminded to keep going, to keep dreaming big, and working hard…”

In the letter, Michelle also shared with Mike the incredible opportunities college has brought her including volunteer experiences in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador and studying abroad in Spain thanks to the bilingual education she received at Alianza. “For all this, I want to thank you because you were the spark that soon turned into a bright burning flame lighting the path to fulfilling my dreams.”

Fueling the Future

Mike is currently fixing up a 1973 Lotus Europa, a British sports car that was only made from 1966 to 1974. “It’s a lot of fun to work on and a lot of fun to drive.” But the twinkle in his eye when he talks about the Lotus goes beyond the actual car--he’s already dreaming of how many kids it will help send to college someday.