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Dawn Smith, Kaya Hollins, and Kevin Wang were on the wrong path, detoured into the court system and managed to turn their lives around. On Friday they each got a portion of $3,000 in scholarship money which will help them pay for schooling. The Contra Costa County, Calif., Bar Association and Friends Outside — an organization that helps inmates and their families — awarded the three scholarships in honor of retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason. “The people who receive it have really gone on to do good things,” said First District Court of Appeal Justice James Marchiano, who was a Contra Costa Superior Court judge for 10 years. Smith, 39, is pursuing a nursing program and will get $1,500. Hollins, 20, and Wang, 17, ran afoul of the law as juveniles. Now Hollins is studying to become a pediatrician, and Wang is pursuing a computer graphics degree, said Lisa Graves Reep, executive director of the Contra Costa County Bar Association. Hollins and Wang will get $1,000 and $500 respectively. The court scholarship started as a way to honor 79-year-old Arnason, believed to be the most senior trial judge in the state. The recipients are people who were once on juvenile or adult probation — folks very much like the former defendants Arnason has stayed in touch with over the years. “People who are still on probation want to go to school, but don’t have the financial wherewithal to do it.” said Marchiano, who has been involved with the scholarship program for years. The seven-year-old scholarship is modest, but it can help recipients buy clothing, and books or pay tuition costs, he said. The fund started with a charity dinner that raised $30,000 in seed money. That allowed the sponsors to give out $1000 or $2000 in scholarships each year. This year, the fund got a boost when Danville’s Gagen, McCoy, McMahon & Armstrong chipped in $1,500, which permitted the fund to give out $3,000 this year. Eventually, scholarship organizers would like to attach Arnason’s name to the award. The problem is, state law prohibits sitting judges from using their names for fund-raising purposes, Marchiano said. The retired judge — who will be 80 in October — still sits on assignment with a full criminal caseload. “One day, if he fully retires,” joked Luana Horstkotte, a board member of Friends Outside, “we can name it after him.”

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