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Truckee Youth Pays it Forward

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on October 7, 2015


The rippling impact of a community scholarship.

A letter recently circulated its way around the offices of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF).  It was a letter of gratitude, grace, and generosity.  The last lines extended an offer to help TTCF in any way possible.  It also offered to help the donors of the Cameron and Jane Baird Scholarship Fund.  It was signed by the 2014 recipient of that scholarship.

Leslie Gonzalez was raised in Truckee, CA, as a first generation, low income student.  As her letter stated, the odds were stacked against her from the very beginning.  That only added to her motivation. Leslie graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA, volunteering anywhere from eleven to eighteen hours a month throughout her four years of school, and working forty hours a week during the summers.

In her scholarship essay, Leslie pointed to her experience volunteering with the Snowboarding Outreach Society (SOS Outreach) as having solidified her commitment to acting from her heart and for others.  She wrote, “integrity, doing the right thing even if no one is watching, is probably the most important of all the virtues I have in my life.”

Entering her second year at California State University (CSU) Monterey Bay, Leslie is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in social work.  She finished her freshmen year on the dean’s list with that same 3.8 GPA.

We were thrilled to hear about Leslie’s academic success, but it is her personal integrity that moves us.  Ten miles from Leslie’s campus sits Roosevelt Elementary School and a small local library in Salinas. In this predominantly Hispanic and low-income city, most adults are agricultural laborers who work twelve hour shifts, seven days a week.

“With lack of time and language barriers, some of these parents aren’t able to help their children in their education,” so Leslie volunteered during her free time to help school children with their class work.  “I was very privileged to have had so much support through different people.  Now, I want to ‘pay it forward.'”

During her sophomore year, Leslie will peer mentor for CSU’s Educational Opportunity Program to support low income, first generation college freshmen. For young people who probably feel as if the odds are stacked against them, too, we can’t imagine a better mentor than Leslie.

The intention of a scholarship goes beyond dollars, it’s a community’s way of demonstrating support and encouragement to a student for her academic and personal efforts.  Sometimes the effect is immeasurable.  We are so grateful to be able to support, through the generosity of our donors, students like Leslie who continue to inspire all of us.  As someone once told Leslie, “In order to live a great life story, you have to live for something bigger than yourself, and you have to care about more than yourself.”

To learn more about our scholarships, or to support our local students, visit