Wednesday, September 22, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on February 28th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 52

Brandon L. Harper Foundation to host tri-tip barbecue scholarship fundraiser in March


Longtime Santa Maria resident Brandon Harper was on his way to dinner on Jan. 20, 2007, when an intoxicated driver ran a red light at the intersection of Betteravia Road and South Broadway, slammed into Harper's truck, and killed him.

Harper was 26 years old, and his death shocked family members, friends, and the community at large. The highly publicized incident and following trial forced law enforcement officials to rethink guidelines and tactics used during vehicle pursuits—the drunk driver who killed Harper was being chased by Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office deputies at the time of the crash—nd shined a light on the area's long struggle with drugged and drunk driving.

The Brandon L. Harper Foundation’s annual tri-tip barbecue fundraiser is coming up on March 24. The money raised will go toward a $2,000 scholarship awarded to a lucky local graduate.

For years Harper's close-knit group of childhood friends, including Katina Gleason, has spent Harper's birthday, Feb. 26, and the anniversary of his death celebrating his short but vibrant life with barbecues and other gatherings. But as the tragic date approached for the 10th time last year, Gleason said an acquaintance asked what Harper's friends were doing to keep his legacy alive.

At first, Gleason said she was offended—Harper is alive in her memories every day.

"And then I thought, 'What are we doing?'" Gleason told the Sun. "We weren't doing anything to keep his legacy alive in future generations."

So she and several of Harper's other closest friends created the Brandon L. Harper Foundation, which gives a $2,000 scholarship to a student graduating from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District each year.

The scholarship, Gleason said, is funded entirely by donations and money made at the foundation's annual fundraiser, a tri-tip sandwich barbecue and silent auction slated this year for March 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Orcutt Lions Club. For $8, attendees will get a tri-tip sandwich, chips, and a drink. More than 900 individuals attended last year's fundraiser, Gleason said.

Students applying for the Brandon L. Harper Memorial Scholarship must fill out an application that includes three essay questions. This year's application deadline is April 14. The money will go to the applicant who most fully embodies Harper's beloved charisma, Gleason said, a student who, like Harper, loves music, cares deeply for others, and has overcome personal challenges.

The winner will receive $1,000 upon enrollment to a college and another $1,000 after the first semester of college, during which the winner must maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average. The grade point average minimum is far lower than what most scholarships require, but Gleason said the foundation wants to help kids that might have made some mistakes, and who wouldn't have help otherwise. Harper, Gleason said, was a great person but wasn't exactly a "straight arrow."

"Once these kids can get a first semester done, it's so easy," Gleason said. "We're just trying to help the average kid coming out of our town."

Ernest Righetti High School graduate Kristin Kim, last year's scholarship winner, could not be reached in time for comment, but Gleason said Kim's first semester in college was a success.

For more information on the Brandon L. Harper Memorial Scholarship or foundation visit

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at

Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said,

| Poll Results

My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events