Nearly 170 students, all of them children of California strawberry farmworkers, have been named college scholarship winners by the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.

Strawberry Commission awards thousands in scholarships

The 168 students will receive a total of $177,935 for the 2011-12 academic year, according to a news release.

In the 17 years since the California Strawberry Scholarship program was launched, the commission has awarded nearly $1.5 million to more than 1,100 students.

“Although the program has existed for a long time, we never get tired of helping young people reach their dreams through college education,” Lorena Chavez, chairwoman of the scholarship committee, said in the release. “It’s a pleasure to give back to the farmworkers who are vital to the strawberry industry.”

The scholarship winners, who must attend an accredited vocational trade school, junior college or four-year university, are determined by individual merit.

The funds are forwarded to the schools to help cover the cost of tuition, fees and books, according to the release. To qualify, an applicant must have at least one parent who has been employed as a strawberry farmworker for the past two seasons.

Formal scholarship award ceremonies are scheduled for the week of May 23 in each of California’s three major strawberry growing regions: Oxnard, Santa Maria and Watsonville.