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Why Four Local Nonprofits are Consolidating

Crisis rarely happens in only one aspect of a person or family’s life. In a region made up of several small communities widely spread apart, it’s often a challenge for community members to know what services are available to them and to be able to reach them. This is especially true for people who lack dependable access to transportation. Too often, people go without all of the help they need to thrive.

North Tahoe Family Resource Center, Family Resource Center of Truckee, Tahoe SAFE Alliance, and Project MANA are currently in the process of joining forces to better serve community members across North Tahoe-Truckee. The four long-standing social service nonprofits are in the midst of combining systems, staff and boards and plan to launch the new organization, officially, on July 1, 2019. The single entity will have five locations throughout with services continuing and being enhanced in Truckee, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, and Incline Village.

This consolidation is a result of over 15 years of community collaboration aimed at improving health and safety outcomes and strengthening services for families and individuals. Several years ago, North Tahoe Family Resource Center, Tahoe SAFE Alliance, and Project MANA, hired an integrated services coordinator to make sure that community members receiving services at one organization were also aware of the services of the organizations. Several years later, they wanted to bring their collaborative services under a single roof in a shared space. Under the leadership of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF), donors and organizations came together to plan, construct, and implement Community House. A massive effort was put forth by numerous people and agencies; the Community House was completed in 2014 in Kings Beach, one of the most poverty-stricken communities in North Lake Tahoe. Community House has been recognized as a national model for shared spaces by The Nonprofit Times.

“It is the next natural evolutionary step for these nonprofits to consolidate into one strong entity for families and individuals,“ Stacy Caldwell, CEO of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

The four organizations will continue to provide the same services, with many of the same staff, under the umbrella of the new entity. Community members will be able to access basic needs support, food programs, community education, and crisis services under one roof in their own neighborhoods. By joining forces, the four organizations will serve community members in a better, more holistic and integrated manner and tailor services to meet specific needs. This consolidation will also provide smoother, streamlined systems for staff and board members. Rather than four separate organizations with four separate strategies for strategies, budgets, and administration work, one organization will focus on streamlined fundraising, finance, marketing, human resources, and information technology.

To support the staff through this transition, TTCF is funding a special On the Verge cohort. The On the Verge Leadership Program (OTV) is a year-long professional and personal development program facilitated by the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (CCTT). This year’s cohort launched recently with all staff members from the consolidating nonprofits.

To learn more about Community House, click here.

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Donor Advised Funds: Commercial Banks vs. Local Experts

If you have had the opportunity to become more strategic in your philanthropy, chances are you have considered a donor advised fund, or a DAF. DAFs are philanthropic funds opened with an initial donation, an intention for the fund, and a name. DAFs allow fundholders to advise on the grants from the fund over a period of time, based on your philanthropic goals. DAF fundholders also receive tax benefits. 

In the past, donor advised funds were primarily opened and held at the community foundation of a donor’s first or second home residence. Community foundations can be found all across the country, built by many different donors who care about and want to preserve their community for many generations to come. 

Commercial banks began offering their clients the opportunity to open DAFs as well.  While banks capable of offering DAFs are normally large and corporate, community foundations like ours are deeply embedded in the community we serve. We also have the ability to think and act across longer time horizons as, more often than not, our permanence is guaranteed by the permanently endowed funds we have been entrusted to manage. 

This gives community foundations several advantages as partners in your philanthropy:

  • We have a deep expertise about the community and region we serve
  • We have long standing relationships with our nonprofits and community partners
  • We work with other donors and leverage your resources with theirs to have a bigger impact
  • We think strategically with a bird’s eye view of our region 
  • We have staff members who are fully dedicated to supporting our grantmaking and nonprofit programming
  • We maintain the flexibility to support all your philanthropic goals, inside and outside of our geography
  • Our mission is to make our region better, not to make money

So why do donors choose to open DAFs at commercial banks? Most often it is because commercial banks may either waive or offer a minimal fee to manage your charitable dollars while they make money managing your other assets. 

But community foundations are more than institutions to place and disburse money. Our very purpose is to serve our communities now and for many generations to come. We deeply care about the place that you love. And we are equipped with the professional expertise and longstanding relationships in our region that make it possible to effect greater change than any one person can make alone.

That means that we always have our finger on the pulse of our community to identify pressing needs. It means we are connecting with community leaders and experts in every field to think strategically and creatively about solutions. It means when our nonprofits talk, we listen. When our community speaks, we’re holding up the microphone. 

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s average fee is 1.5% depending on fund assets. Those fees pay for the staff time and software required to manage your funds and connect your charitable interests with aligned investment opportunities. That 1.5% remains a charitable investment in the place you love and contributes to a sustainable economy by contributing to living wages for local community members.

At TTCF, we understand that every person must find the charitable path that suits their personal giving styles. That’s why we offer many types of funds and ways to give – whether that means estate planning, one time gifts to favorite nonprofits, or leveraging your resources with those of other donors. 

We would love to set up a time to talk about how we can help you meet your philanthropic goals. Please call Stacy Caldwell, our CEO, at 530.587.1776 to set up a time to chat. You can also reach her by emailing Stacy@ttcf.net.

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Forest Futures: Convening experts in Policy, Forestry, and Investment

Forest Futures Logo

In mid-September 2019, nearly fifty leaders gathered in Truckee and Loyalton, CA, for an honest investigation into solutions to the dangerous overcrowding of California’s forests. Invited guests included policy makers, philanthropists, investors, forestry experts, and biomass market experts. Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) sponsored this event alongside Sierra Business Council (SBC), ARP Renewable Power (ARP), and facilitating partner the Joint Institute for Wood Innovation through the California Board of Forestry.

Our objective was to engage diverse leaders on one question:

How do we create regional biomass economies in rural California as a way to approach forest management?

FOREST HEALTH: A PRESSING NEED AND AN IMMINENT THREAT

Our forests are dangerously overcrowded, we can see this every day as we drive through the Tahoe-Truckee region, not unique to other forests in California. Decades of mismanagement has led to hazardous conditions that have been amplified through years of prolonged drought. Dead and dying biomass slash piles of limbs, branches and small diameter trees, awaiting removal in massive piles known as ‘decks’ all throughout our region. In the meantime, they sit on the land increasing fire hazard in a community already slated as high risk. The question is:

How do we flip this challenge into an opportunity? How do we get this biomass, and our trees to work for us?

We convened experts from diverse fields to tackle this wide-reaching issue. Our aim was to create opportunities for people to ask questions, receive immediate answers, test assumptions, and draw out potential pathways to solutions – real time.

This slash pile has been waiting for forest removal for three years. Currently, there are 800,000 piles like these on our forest floor.

FOUR STEPS TO HEALTHIER FORESTS: HARVEST, TRANSPORT, PROCESS, BRING TO MARKET

Together, we brainstormed how California could develop a campus- style or coop-style system that gets the small-diameter trees and biomass out of the forest and into high value wood-products. This will require research, the right partnerships, policy shifts, community support and private and philanthropic investments. Throughout the event’s tours, presentations, and workshops, the collective agreed that addressing the challenge across sectors is critical and agreed that one goal might be a campus-model.

Harvesting and Transportation: A Sharing Economy

Harvesting and transportation of biomass is costly. Tahoe’s slash piles are located deep in the forest and require special, expensive equipment to access and harvest the wood. For a forest project operator to own and operate this equipment, millions of dollars are required upfront to purchase. It also requires trained professionals to operate, maintain and repair the equipment. Employing technically-skilled professionals requires consistent reliable financing. In short, it’s a costly, vulnerable, challenging business to operate. This is a major concern in improving supply-predictability for end-market processors. 

One solution takes a page from the sharing economy. A cooperative of organizations could use a blend of philanthropic and public funds to purchase these expensive suites of equipment for local projects. Forest operators, often small entrepreneurs, could rent the equipment avoiding the upfront capital costs, and encouraging more forest projects to scale at the pace we need.  To scale at the pace we need. The obligation to maintain the equipment and the liability for damage would fall not on small business entrepreneurs incapable of absorbing that kind of expense, but rather on the collective itself who own the equipment.

Processing: A Campus Model

Rural forested communities often suffer from a lack of opportunity. Since the closure of the Loyalton lumber mill in 2010, Sierra County’s population has aged significantly and declined 8% as workers fled to find jobs elsewhere. Reviving wood-based industries in will create living-wage jobs and more vibrant rural  communities.

Legacy infrastructure exists in many rural areas: old abandoned sawmills and biomass facilities. If small biomass processing facilities were locally-owned and/or cooperatively owned, that anchor infrastructure could provide the stability for these locations to become testing grounds for new products — hubs or campuses for the production of innovative wood products, building demand and a pipeline for the trees that otherwise sit, like kindling, on our public lands. 

The touch-stone project of the Forest Futures gathering was the 200-acre Loyalton Biomass Facility and Resource-Regen Campus. Loyalton’s biomass facility closed ten years ago, and with it fell Loyalton’s population. Two years ago, American Renewable Power bought the biomass plant. In consort with Sierra Business Council, ARP is moving towards a campus model. The vision is to engage entrepreneurs and businesses with wood-products, to match with Impact Investors, to  offer job training and residences on site, create a campus of innovation and entrepreneurship, powered by renewable energy, heat and steam processed on-site and supported by lightning fast gigabit fiber already in place.

Markets: From Electricity to Advanced Structural Wood Products

Biochar, a by-product of pyrolisis and a currently nascent-stage market in California, has been the darling of many advocates for its carbon sequestration potential. However, markets for biochar remain stagnant for a variety of reasons related to displacement of fertilizers and ecological and economic challenges in scaling. Throughout the conversations there was a tension between structural wood products and the shift thinking away from power and energy and toward profitable advanced wood products like small diameter wood processing, cross-laminated timber (CLT), oriented strand board (OSB) and bioplastics.  Discussions reflected the need to think of several end-markets and product categories along a combined supply chain in order to increase the efficiency and economics of processing — in other words, a symbiotic processing relationship between biomass to electrical energy which enables the lower cost production of value added wood products through co-generated power

Not only do these advanced structural wood products sequester carbon for a long period of time, they also replace the use of carbon-intensive steel and concrete. With supportive policy shifts, such as requiring new public sector buildings and incentivizing housing developers to use California-produced wood products, we could see these products play a big role in restoring our forests, helping California meet its ambitious climate goals.  Imagine our small-diameter trees, the high hazard fuels that currently put us at risk, playing a significant role in our State’s housing crisis and decreasing the risk of catastrophic fire in the process.

INNOVATIVE FINANCING

Innovative financing and blended capital is critical to to breaking through the uncertainty that curtails private capital investment and unlocking reliable, long-term public funding. Public, private, and philanthropic leaders must leverage collective resources and think creatively about opportunities to scale solutions cooperatively. 

Pre-development financing is critical to decreasing uncertainty for public land managers and harvesting and contracting businesses. Blue Forest Conservation’s Forest Resiliency Bond is one such model – a public-private partnership to provide upfront funding for approved forest management projects in the form of a bond, which then provides a modest return to investors after public financing is complete. This may be, for example, a wise and low-risk investment for insurance companies, Institutional investors and others who stand to benefit from increased ecological resilience (by fulfilling fewer claims) as a result. The financing is repaid to investors – with interest from ecosystem services co-benefits – by public utilities, state agencies, and flood control districts. 

Reliable investment in end-market products is also needed to scale ecological forestry and secure any ‘wood innovation campus model’. One option may be a diversified Opportunity Zone fund which is de-risked through real estate and land investments in peri-urban Opportunity Zones while putting significant capital toward kick-starting structural wood businesses and processing infrastructure for high hazard fuels in California.

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE: 20 YEARS AHEAD

Decreasing catastrophic fire in our state may be the motivation for swift action and increased funding, but it’s the co-benefits and avoided costs, both in dollars and carbon, behind these strategies which is truly exciting.  These strategies can save the communities we love, reduce the spread of toxic air in our urban communities, increase biodiversity, reduce mudslides, maintain (and possibly improve) healthy watersheds for the entire state, and the list goes on. 

Together, we envisioned what these benefits might look like 20 years from now:

  • California is able to compete in national and international sustainable wood markets by tapping our State’s cutting edge tech sector and translating it to our wood-use industries. 
  • California is a more equitable economy by all measures. 
  • Fire and health insurance are readily available to rural residents.
  • Kids from rural communities can live- and raise their families – on living-wage jobs.
  • Our State is invested in education and jobs that focus on rural California — resulting in the growth of economic value of our rural regions and is seen as a critical component of the ecosystem services of our urban regions. 
  • Forest carbon is accounted for, effectively, in California’s carbon markets.
  • There is a “big rowdy party” every year, celebrating California as the #1 lowest carbon economy in the world

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

To move this work forward, we need policy makers to continue to engage, local leaders to advocate, entrepreneurs to innovate, and donors and investors to give and invest. If you would like to learn more about this work, please contact us. 

Stacy Caldwell, CEO- Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation: stacy@ttcf.net

Steve Frisch– Director, Sierra Business Council: sfrisch@sierrabusiness.org

Kevin Lee– CEO, American Renewable Power: kevin.lee@amerpower.com

Teal Brown– Galvanize Partners: teal@galvanizepartners.com

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TTCF announces partnership with the National Forest Foundation

TTCF is proud to share that we recently awarded the National Forest Foundation (NFF)  a grant as part of our efforts to protect our forests. The NFF is producing an educational video to showcase different forest health and fuel reduction treatments such as hand thinning, biomass removal, and mastication— as well as demonstrate how these methods protect our communities. The video will follow the Big Jack East Project, located in Placer County, California and south of the Town of Truckee. Big Jack East, a collaborative project between the NFF and the United States Forest Service, will treat approximately 2,000 acres with the following goals:

  1. Reduce fuel loadings and the risk of wildfire in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) 
  2. Create conditions that would improve forest resiliency to fire, insects, disease, drought and climate change.

Learn more about the Big Jack East Project on the National Forest Foundation’s website.

TTCF has been exploring market-based solutions to protecting our forests as well as potential avenues to develop a restoration economy for our region. If you’re interested in learning more about the work we’re doing, please reach out! We’d love to hear from you! Contact Emily Vitas, Donor Services Manager, at emily@ttcf.net or by calling (530)587-1776.

Registration open for 2019 Board Training Series

Sign up for the series now!

Behind every successful nonprofit sits a strong and productive board of directors.  The role of board member is one of the most influential volunteer positions in the nonprofit community, and an opportunity to serve a mission to which one is truly dedicated. If you are ready to create positive change in your community and step into a role of leadership, this series gives you the necessary tools and knowledge to do so with confidence.

This four part series on board governance prepares you with the tools and knowledge you need to be able to create real change in your community. If you are ready to step out from the sidelines and into a role of community leadership, this workshop series is for you. If you are already a board member and want to hone your skillset, this series will give you resources and networking opportunities that will strengthen your board service.

We approach the breadth of board governance information by blending several resources and interweaving the most valuable pieces into four (4) workshops. Workshops are delivered in three parts:  Theory, Practice, and Interactive Application.

Community members identified as experts in Nonprofit Boards participate as panelists. Panels are unique to each topic, and the experts are chosen based on their particular breadth of experience.  The workshops are organized under four topics:

Board Training Series

Module 1: Board Responsibility and Board Culture – Learn exactly what responsibilities you take on as a board member and how to co-create a powerful and engaged board of directors.

Module 2:  Financial Stewardship and Legal Compliance – Ensure nonprofit dollars advance the mission. Includes a dive into oversight and fiduciary responsibilities.

Module 3:  Strategic Planning and Evaluation – Learn how to approach the scope of your organization’s work by establishing and adapting a strategic plan.

Module 4:  Fundraising 101 – Receive an overview on the basics of fundraising and how to raise the dollars necessary for nonprofit organizations to achieve their objectives and hit their funding goals. Learn how to form and deliver a request that aligns with potential and existing donors.


Grantee Spotlight: Headwaters Science Institute receives accolades

Based in Truckee, CA, Headwaters Science Institute is an education nonprofit with a vision to create informed citizens— citizens who not only pursue science careers, but blossom when faced with opportunities to positively impact society through engagement, curiosity, and applications of the scientific method. Recently, Headwaters was listed by STEMworks at WestEd as an “accomplished program.” 

Headwaters Science Institute continues to impress with a longline of achievements. TTCF has been a proud supporter of their commitment to serving the young people who live in our region through their mission. In 2017, Headwaters Science Institute vigorously took on the Give Back Tahoe Giving Season, hosted by TTCF, and strategically won multiple Challenge Grants by engaging their donor base across the country. In approximately two weeks, Headwaters raised over $20,000 for their general operating funds. In addition to earning grants from TTCF, Girls Giving Back, TTCF’s youth philanthropy project, awarded Headwaters a grant for their STEM summer camp aimed at empowering girls. Headwaters is also participating in our Jumpstart Accelerator Program which works with nonprofits to identify strengths and weaknesses, match them with appropriate coaching, and increase their capacity. 

In its 2018 Annual Report, Headwaters reported its highlights, including:

  • Working with over 1600 new students
  • Growing its programs by 188%
  • Utilizing 90% of its funds directly for educational programs
  • Engaging through its programs 50% low-income students and 40% minority students

As part of our mission, TTCF strengthens and uplifts our local nonprofit organizations in a number of ways: an annual grant cycle, technical assistance, and capacity building opportunities. We are proud to report to our donors how your dollars are at work in our community.

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Grantee Spotlight: A tiny house on wheels to call their own

Just in time to celebrate its 50th summer, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley is happy to share the story of its Paul Radin Memorial Dream Wagon. Just ten feet wide and mobile, the Dream Wagon acts as offices, a bookstore, and a stage for performers. TTCF is proud to have helped with funding to bring the Dream Wagon to completion.

Even if you consider yourself deeply familiar with iconic Squaw Valley, you may not know much about the weeks of summer workshops the Community of Writers hosts. For 49 summers, in fact, the nonprofit organization has helped writers in refining their craft “and thus, in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support, moving them closer to achieving their goals.” 

The workshops bring together poets and prose writers in workshops, individual conferences, lectures, panels, readings, and discussions. With a backdrop that is sure to inspire awe, writers dive into both the craft and business of writing. For years now, the Community of Writers has been in need of more space: to head quarter, to sell books, and to act as a stage. Last summer, it debuted the Dream Wagon. Although the wagon wasn’t yet complete, the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

The majority of the funding was provided by the family of Paul Radin in his memory. Paul Radin was a longtime friend of the Community, an early guest who attended the summer poetry and fiction workshops. Born in Boston, Mr. Radin lived on the Truckee River and as close to Nature as possible. 

Legendary was Radin’s arrival one summer on horseback, wearing his trademark flat-brimmed hat and western boots.  We all remember his dramatic entrance with white horse and enjoyed his recollections of the seminal years of the Conference. (Excerpt taken from Community of Writers’ blog here). 

Thanks to the contributions of Paul Radin’s family as well as the donations, labor, advice, and materials of other community members, attendees of the 50th Anniversary of the Writers Workshops will be able to enjoy the Dream Wagon!

“TTCF is grateful to the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley for nurturing the skills and careers of local and visiting writers. Our community has so many dimensions and our local arts and culture field is burgeoning. We want to attract artists of every discipline to make of our mountains a home and a muse, and TTCF seeks to support the nonprofits that cultivate their presence here,” Phyllis McConn, TTCF Community Impact Officer. 

Learn more and sign up for July events here

Second Homeowner Opens Educational Pathways for Young People

A Community Gives Back

Spanning 7,670 acres, Tahoe Donner is a planned community in Truckee, CA. Tahoe Donner’s streets wind through forested hills with some of the town’s deepest snowpack, and homeowners enjoy miles of trails, downhill and cross country ski areas, and community activities. While 80% of the population is second homeowners, Tahoe Donner Homeowners’ Association is involved in developing solutions to region-wide concerns like the local housing crisis and forest health. So it was no surprise when a small group of homeowners proposed a philanthropic arm of their community. When it comes to charity, a person generally gives back in their place of primary residence and overlooks the charitable opportunities in their second community. In 2014, the group approached Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) to alter that trend and provide an easy way for their neighbors to give back to the place they love. 

Rather than create a new charitable entity of their own, the group became a charter Tahoe Donner committee and opened the Tahoe Donner Giving Fund (TDGF), an affiliate fund with TTCF. TTCF provides operational, legal, accounting, and investment services, and TDGF leaders focus on their mission to inspire generosity and pool charitable giving among their neighbors in support of deserving programs and youth in the greater Truckee community. For greater efficiency and to leverage resources across several local giving streams, TDGF aligns its efforts with TTCF’s grantmaking and scholarship processes.  

“TDGF is run by a committee of volunteers so partnering with TTCF for much of the heavy lifting was a great choice,” commented Dick Gander, founder of the Giving Fund.

A Donor Inspired to Give More

Since its inception, TDGF’s fundraising efforts have significantly grown its charitable giving. In 2015, its first year, TDGF granted $11,090 to local nonprofits and awarded a scholarship of $1,000. In 2018, just three seasons later, TDGF granted $48,000 and awarded $12,500 in scholarships! TDGF has even retroactively extended and increased some scholarship awards. Among others, the seminal $1,000 scholarship recipient was surprised with another $1,000 the next year, and $4,000 the following! 

It was in 2017 that one homeowner picked up the Tahoe Donner newsletter and read about TDGF’s scholarship recipients. The photographs and stories of the first generation high school graduates moved her. She was inspired by the generosity of her neighbors who were taking responsibility for the area of their second homes, and wanted to support TDGF’s efforts to promote “off the hill giving”- as she calls it. 

She reached out to TDGF and TTCF and her first anonymous donation funded a 2018 TDGF scholarship. Changing a life inspired her to do more, and together TDGF and TTCF crafted a scholarship structure that would offer long-term financial assistance to students who have earned the support of their community and need help to leap into their next life chapters. 

In 2019, she provided four $50,000 Impact Scholarships to four separate first generation college students (or $10,000 a year for up to 5 years). These are TTCF’s largest scholarships to date and the students were amazed and grateful for the opportunity. First generation students face all of the ordinary challenges of college, and some unique additional challenges. Multi-year scholarships make all the difference so they can feel the support necessary to focus on their studies as much as possible. This donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, opened up an educational path to transform lives and has committed to continue this generosity on an annual basis. 

Learn more about our 2019 Scholarship Cycle.

Philanthropy: A Personal Passion

Giving back is a deeply personal thing. We give back through volunteering our time where it’s needed and advocating for those who deserve a louder voice; we work hard and donate some of what we earn to causes that resonate in our hearts; we give back by sharing our skill sets to strengthen the efforts of others. Our reasons and our actions reverberate onward in some ways that are apparent and others that are more ephemeral. All that matters is that we give. 

Inspired? You can help boost an existing scholarship or open a new one! Learn more by calling (530)587-1776 or email Phyllis McConn, Community Impact Officer, at Phyllis@ttcf.net.

2019 Impact Scholarship Recipients

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You nearly doubled our scholarship funds! See the happy student recipients.

THANK YOU, SCHOLARSHIP DONORS!

Last year, donors like you doubled our scholarship funds from $113,000 to offer $232,500 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors. In 2019, you did it again! TTCF is overjoyed to share that you raised $449,500 to support local young people in their pursuit of higher education through TTCF facilitated scholarships!

2019 highlights include:

  • 92 community scholarships totaled $868,400
  • 145 applicants
  • 119 recipients
  • 36 first-generation college student recipients

TTCF is amazed at how our donors have stepped up to support local students achieve their dreams. It shows that our community values higher education and making it more accessible to more students in the face of rising costs and competition. This year, one anonymous donor shaped a scholarship structure to support first generation college students throughout their entire careers. Read it here.

If you’re interested in learning more, please call us at (530)587-1776 or email Phyllis McConn, Community Impact Officer, at Phyllis@ttcf.net.

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The Ripple Effect: A Scholarship Success Story

Perhaps you remember this lovely picture of Yulisa Mendez, a 2016 Sierra High School graduate and recipient of several community scholarships.  It wasn’t that long ago! We caught up with this impressive, inspiring and tenacious leader to learn of her college experience and future plans. Below we share her story from a written interview.

TTCF: Tell us about yourself.

YM: I’m 20 years old and have a five year old daughter named Alyssa. My family moved to Truckee when I was only a few months old. My family means the world to me. I am the oldest of five kids and have always helped my mother take care of my younger siblings. In high school, I became a teen parent. During this time, I lost hope in ever pursuing my educational dreams. When my daughter was born, she became my ultimate motivation to continue my education. With the support of my family, high school, community, and friends I was able to graduate from Sierra High School with 20 college credits.

Now, I am a senior at Sierra Nevada College and will be graduating with honors this upcoming May. I will receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology. I will also be graduating a year early.

TTCF: What inspires or motivates you?

YM: My daughter. My daughter is the person that keeps me moving forward. Without her I would not be where I am today. I want to make my daughter proud and be a role model to her. My mother is also my inspiration. As a single mother of five, she has given so much to me and my siblings. I hope to one day repay her for all that she has done for us.

TTCF: You received a number of community scholarships, can you tell us a bit about the process from a student perspective?  

YM: The process of applying to scholarships was simple, but difficult at the same time. The most difficult part was writing about myself and my life story. It is difficult to talk about yourself and describe what you have been through. The best part of applying for scholarships is that you get to reflect on all of the accomplishments you have achieved in your life.

TTCF: What do you think the value of higher education is? How can community scholarships help?

YM: I believe that it is important to keep learning and to never stop. Education is something no one will ever take from you. Education is one of the most valuable things a person can have. Community scholarships are very important; they give students like me an opportunity to believe in oneself.  Scholarships enable students to write about their accomplishments, goals, and future aspirations. They provide motivation, encouragement, and support to those students who, like myself, have felt like giving up. The scholarships allowed me to focus on my school work and to not worry so much about the financial factors.

TTCF: What were the ups and downs of your college experience?

YM: Taking 18 credits every semester- it was difficult taking so many courses at a time while also managing being a parent, a student worker, and a provider for my family. The best part of college is getting the opportunity to learn, be a part of a unique community, and experience new things. For example, I will present my research project that I have been working on for the past year at different research conferences at UNR, UCLA, and at SNC. Coming to the end of this experience, I am proud of all the sacrifices I had to make, all the hard work has paid off.

TTCF: What’s next?

YM:  Once I graduate, I want to obtain a master’s degree in social work. Social work is a field that I am very passionate about. I am an example of what great support from a community can do. With a degree in social work, I will be able to pay it forward and support/help vulnerable populations in my community.

There are so many remarkable students like Yulisa who are poised for success, but just need your help to pay for tuition, books, room and board, and more. Please help students reach their goals of higher education by supporting our scholarships or opening one of your own today. Call Phyllis McConn at (530)587-1776 or donate here.