Janessa Ramirez Scholarship Program

Janessa’s Story

In 2015, Janessa Ramirez was standing in front of a laundromat with her mother when she was killed in the crossfire of a gang dispute. She was struck by a stray round fired from several hundred yards away and died on January 18, 2015. She was a 4th grader from Steinbeck Elementary. Later that year, during the 2015 State of the City address, Mayor Ashley Swearengin presented Janessas’ mother, Stacey Gonzalez with a Key to the City and announced Central’s new scholarship program in her daughter’s name. 

To honor and remember Janessa, the Foundation for Central Schools adopted the Janessa Ramirez Scholarship Program. In April of 2016 the first annual Janessa Ramirez Scholarship Awards took place, and six outstanding Central Unified Seniors were each awarded a $2500 scholarship. Since then, the Foundation for Central Schools has grown the program to keep Janessas’ story alive. In 2020, the Foundation announced the award of an additional $2500 scholarship. Which increased the total to seven scholarships. 

In spring of 2021, the first Janessa Ramirez mural was commissioned by muralist Samantha Lazcano. The mural represents Janessa’s story. It is our hope the mural will bring awareness to gang violence in the Central Community and surrounding areas. The mural is located at Granville Teague Community Resource Center and will stay for the next 4 years. 

Today, the scholarship program is thriving and adapting to keep Janessa’s memory alive through the power of education and community outreach. In July of 2021, the Foundation for Central Schools Board of Directors approved to increase the program to ten $2500 scholarships. Which will be awarded in April, 2022. 

To date, the Foundation has awarded $102,500 in scholarships to deserving Central Unified seniors. 

2022 Recipients

Pictured Above: 2022 Janessa Ramirez Scholarship Recipients with Superintendent Ketti Davis and Dr. Michele Cantwell-Copher, Fresno County Assistant Superintendent.
Editors Note: Janessa Ramirez Mural was created by Muralist, Samantha Lazcano for the 6th Annual Janessa Ramirez Scholarship Awards, to honor and remember all students lost to gang violence.

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Past Recipients



Janessa Ramirez Community Mural

From intimate conversations with Janessa’s mother and grandma, and a collection of pictures and stories from friends, we were able to learn and understand the life of Janessa. Through this storytelling, our Muralist, Samantha Lazcano, created what you see. Every inch of this mural represents Janessa. It is our hope this mural will stand to honor, remember and highlight the Janessa Ramirez Scholarship program, her story, and bring awareness to gang violence in our city.

We are grateful for the partnership and involvement of Highway City Community Development, Incorporated. They approved this mural to be painted on this south wall of the Granville-Teague Community Resource Center where it will stay for at least five years. They’re an invaluable resource for our community, students and now this Janessa Ramirez Scholarship program.

Thank you to the following: Stacey Gonzales(Janessa’s Mother), Highway City Community Development, Incorporated, Dulce Upfront, Lead Muralist Samantha Lazcano, Contributing Portrait Muralist Andrea Torres as well as Assistant Artists- Patty Pratt, Norberto Ramirez, Krystal Shehadey, Alexis Lowe, Anthony Martinez, and the friends and community of Central Unified.