The Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, announced in August the winners of its annual memorial scholarship and loan forgiveness. Among the recipients were two Cal Poly Pomona mechanical engineering students, Mariano Rubio and Angel Martinez.
In total, SEMA awarded $296,000 in scholarships and loan forgiveness awards to 119 individuals. Rubio was one of 22 recipients to receive the loan forgiveness award, and Martinez was one of 97 recipients of the memorial scholarship award. While Martinez was unavailable for comment, Rubio shared his thoughts on winning the award.
“It was very surprising,” said Rubio. “As students we apply to scholarships hoping to get at least one in 10. I’m very happy it was specifically SEMA because that is of course the area that I am mostly familiar with.”
SEMA is a trade organization for automotive aftermarket assisting businesses that produce and market automotive parts. According to its website, “SEMA members make, buy, sell and use all kinds of specialty parts and accessories to make vehicles more attractive, more unique, more convenient, faster, safer, more fun and even like new again.”
Companies that become SEMA members provide employees access to benefits like these scholarships and awards. SEMA also provides educational opportunities for members and organizes its annual trade show in Las Vegas.
“Right after high school I participated in a student educational conference held in Las Vegas at their annual SEMA show,” said Rubio. “That’s when I first found out about them.”
Rubio currently works at Citrus College teaching automotive and heavy truck technology, where he receives SEMA benefits and applied for the loan forgiveness award. He received $2,000 and plans to put it to use to help him pay off his undergraduate student loans and achieve his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He also works as a consulting engineer for a research team at the Seaver Science Center located in the University of Southern California. Rubio works to design components for a system to replace aftertreatment systems found on diesel engines. Because of this project, Rubio sees a lot of opportunities for his educational future. In addition to SEMA award, he has also recently won Automotive Master Technician of the year from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Rubio credits Kevin Anderson, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department and his master’s advisor, for encouraging him to seek out opportunities like the loan forgiveness award.
“For us to have our students get these awards is remarkable,” said Anderson. “It means we’re doing a good job and that students are ranking high with other universities.”
Anderson has experience with SEMA, calling it a “well known, reputable organization” and encourages students to seek out opportunities for scholarships and professional organizations.
Henry Xue, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department, also encouraged students to seek out opportunities within the university.
“We want to see more students look around for opportunities,” said Xue. “It used to be more students were willing to apply for the scholarships, recently we feel that the pool of applicants is not big enough.”
Students who are looking to learn more about scholarship opportunities can check out the Bronco Scholarship Portal during Scholarship Fest which occurs every year starting Oct. 1 and ending March 2 of the following year. Students are encouraged to reach out to their departments and advisors for information regarding scholarships.
“Scholarships are prestigious and will help them find a job,” said Xue. “It’s all benefits, students just have to be proactive to look for these opportunities.”
More information about SEMA can be found on its website.