By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Stiles’ carry on son’s legacy with scholarships
• 10 students from CHS, CV receive $4,000 for college scholarship cash
Meliesa and Sam Stiles
Meliesa and Sam Stiles (center) offered financial help to Central Valley High School seniors through the Austin Stiles Memorial Scholarship fund for the third year in a row. Austin Stiles, their son and a former Bulldog athlete, passed away at the age of 24 in December of 2021. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Two-and-a-half-plus years removed from his tragic passing at the age of 24 during a vehicle accident, Ceres High School grad/former Bulldog multi-sport standout Austin Stiles continues to make a difference in the community.

A total of 10 students, five from both CHS and CV, were named Austin Stiles Memorial Scholarship recipients during the 2023-24 school year.

They received a combined $4,000.

“To get the scholarship is such an honor,” said Brett Johnson, who coached Stiles for a combined six seasons in football and track and field during his prep athletic career with the Bulldogs. “The kids know who he was. We talk about him. He was an ultimate competitor. The great thing about Austin is he related to everyone. He was willing to help anybody. He was very approachable. He was a very humble, respectful and hard-working person.”

“Honestly, I feel honored,” said Manny Mendoza, a 2023-24 scholarship award recipient who starred in football and boys track and field senior year. “His name is known. He was a huge role model. I never got to meet or talk to him. My sister was a cheerleader at Ceres High when he was there. I got an opportunity to watch him play basketball and football. He was a stud.”

Austin Stiles Memorial Scholarship recipients were rewarded during Ceres High’s and Central Valley’s Senior Awards Night Banquets.

“I got an opportunity to meet his parents,” Mendoza said. “It felt nice to thank them in person. They were really nice people.”

“It’s been rough not having our boy here with us but we are so glad we can bless individuals in our community in his name and hope they will always remember him,” said Meliesa Branson-Stiles, Austin’s mother, in a Facebook post following Central Valley’s 2023 Scholarship Night.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without the support from family, friends, the community and all of those who have helped donate to the scholarship fund,” she added. “Everybody that loved and supported Austin is helping these kids. It’s a group effort.”

A total of 36 student-athletes from Ceres High and Central Valley have been awarded a combined $14,000 since the creation of the Austin Stiles Memorial Scholarship Fund three years ago.

“Everything Sam (Austin’s father) and Meliesa have done to keep his name out there is amazing,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t fathom losing a child.”

“We want to keep his name alive here in Ceres,” Branson-Stiles said. 

Stiles graduated from Ceres High in 2016.

He starred in football, basketball and track and field.

Manny Mendoza gratitude
Ceres High senior Manny Mendoza expressed gratitude after being named an Austin Stiles Memorial Scholarship recipient. - photo by Contributed to the Courier