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Zach Conradson, supplemental scholarship recipient & future CAL FIRE pilot

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on August 30, 2023
Zach Conradson, a 2013 graduate of Truckee High School who went on to receive a BA in business management from the University of Utah, decided to build a different kind of career in flying fire-retardant bombers for CAL FIRE. That will require a great deal of training, beginning with a year in the Airline Career Pilot Program at ATP Flight School in Riverside, CA.

The scholarship that Conradson was awarded to help pay for that training drew from several sources, with the initial funds coming from a Truckee Tahoe Airport District scholarship offered to students pursuing careers in aviation. This was combined with a gift from Richard and Theresa Crocker that’s earmarked for young adults pursuing further education to develop a skill that meets a local need—protecting the region from wildfire certainly met that criterion.

Here we see one philanthropic act resonating with two of TTCF’s core initiatives. The Forest Futures campaign, which was launched in 2016 as a reaction to the sudden proliferation of tree mortality, has focused on fire protection and prevention since the arrival of near-annual catastrophic wildfires the following year. The Family Strengthening campaign is designed in part to help people like Zach overcome whatever economic need is standing in the way of their success.

“The various aspects of TTCF function in disparate areas,” McConn says, “but here we see how they are actually connected.”


McConn says the benefits of TTCF’s scholarship programs go beyond the financial realm.

“It’s such a community-binding thing to know that we all got together to help launch these talented, hard-working young people,” she says. “I hope the community understands how much their support means individually to each of them.”

Conradson says the locals-helping-locals nature of the TTCF scholarship helped move him to apply.

“I loved the fact that it was a community-based organization instead of just some national scholarship,” he says. “It’s like, this is actually from people who live here who put up money to create these opportunities. When I read that I immediately thought, ‘I’d be insane not to do this!’”

Dana Crary, TTCF’s Community Impact Manager, says this year‘s high school scholarship processes saw more stakeholder participation than previous years. She says awareness among teachers and counselors is up, and that they are helping students apply and supporting them through the process.

This seems to be setting up a virtuous cycle in which more people are inspired to help grow the pool of money available to these students. And again, TTCF is working to see that these donations and awards pay off in more ways than one. We’re seeing the same kind of thing within the supplemental scholarship program.

“We’re really trying to find a way to support folks who have a very clear direction of where they’re going,” Crary says. “And ideally, that direction is something that’s going to loop back and support this community in a much-needed way. Zach has found this niche that touches on all of our individual lives up here.”

“It’s been humbling to see the way the community has stepped up and is eager to financially prop up these students who are looking to improve upon their lives, and come back and support the community with what they learn.”

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