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Scholarships in slain officer's honor

Fund takes and disburses contributions in memory of first Burbank policeman killed since 1920.

August 28, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Five Burbank teens received scholarships in honor of slain police Officer Matthew Pavelka.

The Matthew Pavelka Endowment Fund was established after his murder in November 2003. Burbank had not lost an officer in a shooting since 1920. Within the first 24 hours following the incident, businesses and residents in Burbank and the surrounding communities responded with contributions in his memory, officials said.

His parents, Mike and Sue Pavelka, requested that the funds be used to promote future leaders in the community.

"We want to keep Matt's name out in the community," said Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn, chairman of the foundation's scholarship committee.

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A collaboration between the Burbank Police Officers' Assn. and Burbank Police Officers' Foundation established the Matthew Pavelka Scholarship Fund to award high school seniors scholarships based on a demonstrated effort to achieve a life goal.

Ryburn described Matthew Pavelka as someone who loved being a cop. Matthew Pavelka served for five years as a military policeman before enrolling in the police academy to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer.

"The objective of the committee is to provide an award for high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding effort in pursuing a vocational goal," Ryburn said.

The hope is that the funds, $500 distributed after the completion of the students' first semester of classes, will motivate students to dedicate themselves "more thoroughly and responsibly to their education or training," Ryburn said.

The winners included Juliana M. D'Agostaro from Bellarmine-Jefferson High School; Jasmyn N. Torres from Burbank High School; Christian Kirk-Xavier Smith from Providence High School; and Dmitriy A. Starkov from the Burbank Police Officers' Assn.

Rebecca Johnson, also a winner who graduated from John Burroughs High School this year, found out about the scholarship opportunity from her school's career center. Johnson, who will be attending Cal State Northridge during the upcoming semester, plans to major in deaf studies and plans to become an interpreter.

"It's something I decided on a few years ago after taking sign language for my foreign language requirement," she said.

The scholarship recipients are chosen by Ryburn, Mike and Sue Pavelka and Officer Representative Steve Karagiosian. Winners are chosen from applicants from the area high schools and from among current Burbank police officers that have a child who is a graduating high school senior.

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