Scholarship Committee

The Scholarship Committee is led by Chairwoman Raquel Isaacson. Raquel dedicates her time to organizing the committee, coordinating meetings, and streamlining the entire application process from start to finish. Contact her with any inquiries regarding the scholarship process, or getting involved at

The 2023 committee is composed of the following members:

Jason Brandenberger:

Brandon Gaspar:

Martha Huizar, Scholarship Committee Member

Martha Huizar: Martha (MS, RDN, CLC) is a Relations Manager with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the owner of two local businesses, and an Adjunct Instructor at University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned both her bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Arizona, which she attributes as being the base upon which she gained the tools to accomplish professional goals she set her mind to.

She is both an owner and wrap-around worker of two startups in San Luis, Ariz.: Colorado River Valley (CRV) Roasters, a high-quality micro coffee roaster located in the border town in San Luis, and Martha Huizar Nutrition, a personalized business offering clients the knowledge, skills and services necessary to make informed decisions to meet their food and nutrition goals.

“Helping students be successful in their future careers is the most rewarding aspect,” Martha says about being involved in the local alumni chapter, and the time and effort she gives to help others. “Whether we are doing it by sharing tips, being a sounding board, or monetary support.” Of the alumni group, she feels and admires that Yuma Wildcats share three things in common: “a dedication to becoming a better version of ourselves, residents of Yuma County, and [that we are] proud UA students and alumni.”

Raquel Isaacson, YumaCats Scholarship Committee Chair

Raquel Isaacson (Chairwoman): Born and raised in Michigan, Raquel first moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona and absolutely fell in love with the desert. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Plant Sciences, she decided to make Arizona her permanent home and spent the next seven years working in finance in the Phoenix area. She specialized in investing and retirement planning at J.P. Morgan before moving on to Charles Schwab & Co. where she served as an Active Trading Specialist. Since relocating to Yuma, Raquel has focused on raising her daughter, tending her jungle of houseplants, and traveling whenever she gets the chance. As a fairly recent addition to the YumaCats, she is looking forward to getting more involved in the local community and finding new ways to give back. 

Cori Rico, Scholarship Committee Member

Cori Rico: Born and raised in Yuma, Ariz., Cori holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Management and Policy with a minor in Spanish from the University of Arizona. She is the Global Recruitment and Development Lead at Gowan Company, where she designs, creates and directs hiring initiatives to seek top-talent for the global agricultural company. She also plans and implements effective methods to educate, enhance and recognize performance for current employees. Cori additionally leads strategies for employee retention initiatives/events.    

Prior to her role at Gowan Company, Cori served as the Foster Care, Adoption & ICPC Program Director for the Arizona Children’s Association for 12 years for Yuma, La Paz and Mohave Counties. Cori’s passion for being a voice to children and families shines bright when you meet her, and in the many ways she gives back to the community. She has an innate love for helping others. She is a member of CASA (Court Appointed Advocate) Council and First Things First of Yuma Regional Council.  A wife and mother of two, Cori is active in her children’s PTO and is a member of the United Firefighter Ladies Auxiliary Club, supporting her husband in his family activities with the fire department. She is active in the University of Arizona Yuma Alumni Chapter, the local Yuma Elks Club, her Church Ministry, the Yuma County Anti-Drug Coalition Council, United Way of Yuma County, and Hunter’s Army. Outside of work, Cori is enrolled in a graduate program to further develop her professional career strengths and academics by earning a master’s degree. She enjoys watching her children in their involvement with gymnastics, piano, baseball, softball, soccer and football and supporting her husband in his many activities with the fire department, his music and love for sports.    

Ernesto Romero, Scholarship Committee Member.

Ernesto Romero: KYMA News 11’s News Director first joined the news team as a producer in 2009. Born in Yuma, Ernesto is proud to call himself a Yuma High School Criminal and also a recipient of a YumaCats scholarship.  He started his journalism career while attending the University of Arizona, where he was a fashion editor of the UA’s first magazine, Red/Blue. He covered the entertainment beat for The Arizona Daily Wildcat, was Assistant Spanish Editor for El Independiente, helped launch the National Association of Hispanic Journalists UA chapter, and received a “Professionalism in Journalism Award.” 

Ernesto is the proud recipient of a 2019 Emmy award for News 11’s Early Edition: Crisis on the Border, profiling members of the 2018 migrant caravan. Ernesto and his team also won another Emmy in 2020 for best small market newscast in the region. He is also the proud recipient of the Associated Press Mark Twain Award for team coverage of the Easter Sunday earthquake. Ernesto is also proud to be recognized in Biz Magazine’s “20 under 40” publication.

Working news transcends a job; it’s all he breathes, eats, sleeps or tweets. During his free time, he likes to hang out at the Yuma Palms (he knew being in the Yuma High School Renaissance Council and giving his input on a new mall would serve a purpose seven years later). He also enjoys spending time with his family at random Eighth Street taco shops, and spending time with his friends. Contact him at

Sarah Strom:

Dr. Chase Thompson, Scholarship Committee Member

Chase Thompson: Dr. Thompson was born in Yuma, Ariz. and is proud to be a part of the community that raised him.  He graduated from Cibola High School before attending the University of Arizona.  He graduated summa cum laude from the UA, majoring in chemistry with a minor in the Portuguese language in 2008.  He went on to earn his doctoral degree at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in 2012.  Dr. Thompson served as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy for four years, where he had the privilege and honor to work with some of America’s most exceptional men and women.  He cherished his time as a dentist in the Navy and is proud to offer continued support for our troops.  After resigning his commission, he pursued advanced specialty training in endodontics.  He studied in Manhattan, New York and earned his Certificate in Endodontics with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs before returning to his home in Yuma, Arizona.  He and his wife are the proud parents of four children.  When not in the office, Dr. Thompson loves cooking for family and friends. 

Gay Thrower, YumaCats Scholarship Program Founder and 30 year Chairwoman

*Honorary Member and Scholarship Committee Former Leader Gay Thrower: Gay graduated from Yuma High School in 1967 and then attended UA graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Music in 1971, a Masters of Education in Counseling and Guidance in 1973 and a Masters of Public Administration in Recreation in 1974.  After moving back to Yuma, Gay worked at Arizona Western College for 3 years as a counselor and then 30 years as Professor of Family Studies. She was named College Teacher of the Year in 1990 by the Education Foundation of Yuma County.  UA instilled in Gay the responsibility of community service which resulted in serving on a variety of community organizations including Center Against Sexual Assault (CASA de Yuma), Assistance League of Yuma, YHS Baseball Club (Fundraiser), Yuma United Soccer Club and YHS Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Gay was asked to develop the YumaCats Scholarship program and served as Chair of that mission from 1991-2021 during which the Yuma Alumni Club awarded over $1.3 M to over 750 Yuma area students. She was awarded the Sid Woods Alumni Service Award by the University of Arizona in 2015.  Gay and her husband, Randy, raised 2 sons who also graduated from YHS.  Jake attended UA and played for the Wildcats Baseball team for 3 years before joining the San Diego Padres organization. Judd attended and played baseball at AWC, U of Texas and U of Northern Alabama before moving back to Yuma where he now teaches and coaches at Yuma Catholic High School. Since retirement, Gay has continued community service and loves to travel, read, garden and have the time to spend with her 5 grandchildren. 

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