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Courteney, right, and Amaya Taylor on a hike. Courtesy Taylor family
Courteney, right, and Amaya Taylor on a hike. Courtesy Taylor family
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Scholarship honors mother, daughter killed in suspected DUI crash

SAN MARCOS — Following the loss of 29-year-old Courteney Taylor and her four-year-old daughter Amaya in a deadly collision earlier this year, family members are starting a scholarship at Cal State San Marcos in honor of their memory. 

Courteney’s parents, Barbara and David Taylor, started the Courteney and Amaya Taylor Memorial Scholarship with a fundraising goal of $15,000 to cover the initial investment for an endowment scholarship. The two have worked at the college for over 14 years.

As of Wednesday, the fundraiser had raised over $9,700 in donations, with thousands of dollars pouring in during the university’s Giving Day on Tuesday. 

“The goal is to fund the initial investment for an endowment/scholarship in honor of Courteney and Amaya, two beautiful souls who brought so much joy and love to all who knew them. Although their dreams were cut short in a tragic vehicle accident involving a suspected drunk driver, we hope this scholarship will inspire future students to achieve their aspirations via higher education,” their family stated on the fundraiser page. 

Courteney and Amaya were killed on April 23 while driving along Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, when they were struck head-on by a motorist who lost control of his truck and drove into oncoming traffic in a suspected DUI case. 

The driver, 24-year-old Erick Arambula, was fleeing a California Fish and Wildlife officer who attempted to pull him over for speeding just before the collision. He also struck another car, causing minor injuries to three individuals. 

(from left) Courteney and Amaya Taylor with Courteney's mother, Barbara. Courtesy Taylor family
(from left) Courteney and Amaya Taylor with Courteney’s mother, Barbara. Courtesy Taylor family

Arambula is facing seven felony charges including gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, and is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 9.

Barbara Taylor said Courteney was a devoted, single parent to Amaya, who was a “ray of sunshine,” and a generous community member who valued helping people in need. Knowing how much Courteney valued the community, it made sense to set up the scholarship in her name, Barbara said. 

“Courteney loved the community in San Marcos and San Diego County. She was always helping people in need. She once provided several days of housing to a young couple her age that were homeless and were outside the Walmart she was working at. She served food at a soup kitchen and donated money to a variety of organizations to help those in need. She was a doula who helped several women through their labor online during COVID,” Barbara said.

Courteney was a young teen when she and her family moved to San Marcos from Illinois. She attended Woodland Park Middle School, High Tech High and Escondido Charter High School, and received her associates degree from Palomar College. 

Her passion was working with young children in education settings, which she spent the last decade doing. At the time of the collision, she was employed as a preschool teacher in Poway and was just weeks away from graduating with a bachelor’s in sociology from Western Illinois University.

She would have turned 30 on Nov. 23. 

As a mother, Courteney was gentle, patient and calm with Amaya, Barbara said. The two were very close, Courteney took Amaya everywhere with her, from fun outings in San Diego County to a spontaneous Hawaii getaway after Amaya said she wanted to go. 

Courteney, left, and Amaya Taylor at SeaWorld. Courtesy Taylor family
Courteney, left, and Amaya Taylor at SeaWorld. Courtesy Taylor family

Watching Courteney with her daughter, Barbara said she was “the mom I wish I would have been.” 

“Watching her as a mom made me a better Nana. I was in awe of her and her patience. Being a single parent is not easy, but she made it look easy and graceful,” Barbara said. “She would take Amaya to the zoo, SeaWorld, Discovery Park in San Marcos, read to her, teach her words in different languages. She bought her GloFish and when one died, she rushed to Petco to get a new one since Amaya didn’t want the others to be without their friend.” 

Amaya was curious, gentle and kind, and someone who brought a smile to the faces of everyone she met. 

“She loved flowers, singing, dancing, riding her bike, helping her friends, swimming, drawing and painting, being outside and learning. She especially enjoyed baking and creating laser projects with her Nana and eating bacon cooked by her Pops,” her family said. 

Barbara said while the exact scholarship requirements still remain to be decided, her hope is that it will be for students in need who represent Courteney’s spirit. 

“We want to fund students similar to Courteney. Those who act in service to others, underrepresented minorities, single moms and nontraditional students. Courteney had a compassionate heart and was so generous. The world needs more people like her and Amaya,” Barbara said. 

Courteney is also survived by her brother, David, and three sisters, Lavella, Megan and Kelsi. 

Donations to help fund the Courteney and Amaya Taylor Memorial Scholarship can be made online at or at

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