News Flash


Posted on: May 22, 2023

Two amazing students win Helix scholarships

Stephen Abkin holding certificate and posing for photo with Helix Board

On May 17, the Helix Water District Board of Directors honored Valhalla High senior Lily Martinez and Grossmont High senior Stephen Abkin as the 2023 recipients of the district’s Robert D. Friedgen and Dr. Lillian M. Childs college scholarships.

Martinez, who will attend UC San Diego and plans to major in biology, is an AP Scholar of Distinction and a National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar. Her score last year on the PSAT exam ranked in the top 1.25% of Hispanic high school juniors nationwide. Martinez is also receiving the California State Seal of Biliteracy, which is given to students who score 3 or higher on a world language AP exam. 

Martinez is a member of Valhalla’s varsity basketball team and works with children and refugee families through the Foothills United Methodist Church in La Mesa. Her goals are to complete medical school and become an oncologist or geneticist. 

Lily Martinez holding certificate and posing for photo with Helix Board

Photo: Scholarship recipient Lily Martinez with Helix boardmembers.

Stephen Abkin holding certificate and posing for photo with Helix Board

Photo: Scholarship recipient Stephen Abkin with Helix boardmembers.

Abkin will attend Texas A&M and plans to major in computer science and electrical engineering. He interned at FOX Shocks in El Cajon last year, where he shadowed mechanical engineers to learn product design and development skills and computer aided design (CAD). During the past two years, Abkin captained Grossmont’s Academic/Quiz Bowl Team. He is also one of the top 20 junior bowlers in California and was ranked #4 in the state last year.  

Abkin is a cofounder of the 602 Race, an online gaming event to raise funds for Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital and participates in a number of clubs at Grossmont. He also volunteers at Fletcher Hills Elementary School, producing outreach and tutorial videos and keeps statistics for Little League. His goal after college is to develop technology to address environmental issues, such as plastic waste and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Helix’s scholarships are $1,000. The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship was established upon his retirement in 1998, after serving as Helix’s general manager for 19 years. Friedgen provided the seed money and the board and others contributed additional funding. The Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship was started by the Helix board a year later to honor Ms. Childs upon her retirement from the board and recognize the 20 years of service and leadership she had given to the district.

Helix reaches out to high school counselors in November to get the word out to students about the annual scholarship contest. Applicants must live in the district’s service area, have excellent academic standing, excel in community service and extracurricular activities, write an essay about the East County Advanced Water Purification Project, and provide a personal goals statement and two letters of recommendation.

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