Meet the Students of 2011

Lake Tahoe Community College:


Araceli is a first-generation college student who has overcome significant barriers to attend LTCC and who has now been accepted to transfer to UC-Berkeley for the fall of 2011. Araceli comes from a family of 6 with very little income, and none available to help support her educational goals. She also has had to deal with a language barrier as an ESL student. Araceli graduated from South Tahoe High School, and her educational goal is to become a high school counselor; she was inspired to pursue a college education by her own high school counselor. Araceli plans to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, as well as a Master’s Degree in Counseling. Araceli wants to encourage other students, especially Hispanics, to pursue their educational dreams. Araceli has been actively involved in the Associated Student Council at LTCC since February of 2010, and she was elected vice president of ASC last spring. She recently served as the student representative on LTCC’s Presidential Search Committee. She has also been actively involved in the Honor Society at LTCC. In the community, Araceli tutors math at the high school, and she is a volunteer at Bijou Elementary School, Barton Memorial Hospital, and the Forest Service.
South Tahoe High School:


Casey and his family suffered the sudden death of his father three days before his sixteenth birthday. Casey competed in a gymnastics meet a month later with a broken hand he suffered when he punched a wall after hearing the devastating news about his dad. His father was the backbone of the family, a wonderful man who worked at Heavenly for over 20 years. Casey was suddenly thrust in to the “man of the house” role, emotionally supporting his distraught mother and a sister with Down syndrome. All the while, Casey was trying to maintain his grades at school as an AVID student bound for college, continued to compete at the elite level in gymnastics and earn a scholarship and overcome his own grief as well. Unfortunately in the spring of his senior year, when things were looking up, he had applied to college, was in contact with coaches and competed in a gymnastics meet in April when he landed his last trick and broke his ankle. Casey rebounded from his disappointment and is planning to attend a community college in Arizona this fall. He states, “At times I am very conflicted about whether it is the right moral decision to leave my mother and sister to go off to college. I know deep down it is what my whole family and I want, including my dad.”

Ulysses is third of three children born to his parents who emigrated from Mexico, met in the U.S., fell in love and married. It sounds like a true love story but unfortunately there is not a happy ending for Ulysses. He states, “Since my adolescence I was molested by my own brother and from then on family problems, self-esteem and trust issues all stemmed out.” When Ulysses finally got the nerve to tell his parents, they did not believe him. In fact, they kicked him out of the house and he was homeless in the summer of 2010. He camped out in the meadow; couch surfed and survived on his own for a month. Finally, his sister convinced his parents to let him come back home, but it has never been the same since. Ulysses is a stranger in his own home; he has a place to stay, but he must support himself and buy his own food and clothing. Understandably, Ulysses has difficulty trusting others and forming relationships. He has no real friends although he is well-liked by his peers. Ulysses is looking forward to attending UC Merced next fall and embarking on a new life with all its possibilities.

If I could wave a magic wand over only one student in the senior class and make her future dreams come true, it would be Tiffany. I say this with conviction because Tiffany makes the lives of those around her better just by being in their presence. What makes her positive attitude so remarkable is that Tiffany has been helping her mother care for her father who is wheelchair-bound due to multiple strokes since her third grade year while carrying the secret of her Chilean mother’s illegal status. Her father is from Hungary and has been disables and wheelchair bound for many ears, with her mother being illegal and not finding much work, the family is not able to receive support from many agencies, including quality health care for her father. Her mother had been on the list to become an American citizen for many years when 9-11 happened; she remains on this list today. What is most remarkable about Tiffany’s heart wrenching situation is that I never knew a thing about it until last year when her mother came to me privately about their inability to pay for Tiffany’s AP exams, I believe Tiffany has never shared her home life with me because she has never allowed it to be an excuse, period. It was at that moment that my respect for Tiffany grew tremendously. She has poured herself into her studies, her community and her passion for the environment. Tiffany’s success in school is a direct result of her true joy of learning. She understands that life is precious and education is a gift so she makes the most of it daily, she has repeatedly challenged herself each year in school by taking our most rigorous courses and earning a 4.17 grade point average. Tiffany will be attending Cal Poly in the fall majoring in science or public health.

Stephanie has overcome many obstacles in her life; culturally, financially and educationally. Stephanie comes from a large family, so money has been scarce all of her life. As the fourth of five sisters, Stephanie has seen many sides of success and difficulty in her family. She follows in the footsteps of her older sister who is in law school in Chicago, not those of her two other sisters who became pregnant and left school. To Stephanie, education has always been important to her, especially when her mother sat her down in middle school and told her that a “C” grade was unacceptable. If she wanted to change her path in life, education was the way. Even though her parents could not help her with her studies because they only had a fifth grade education, Stephanie states, “I had to work ten times harder to receive the same grade as someone with all the help in the world. But that is not the issue, helping my sister is. Exceeding my parent’s education at the start of my sixth grade gave me an advantage in guiding and tutoring my little sister-something my parents have not been able to do with her, myself and my older sisters.” It was the pressure of being a role model to her younger sister that motivated Stephanie to earn a 4.04 GPA as a bilingual student and pave the way just as her older sister did for her. Even though her parents believe in the value of education, Stephanie always felt the cultural family pressure to stay home and care for her sisters at times. She has overcome that cultural barrier as well as others: she was the first Hispanic cheer captain at STHS, taking the risk to break down stereotypes and laying the foundation for others after her, Stephanie will be attending UCSD in the fall.

Savannah is the most resilient teen I can find for this year’s HERO Scholarship. She has endured family abuse, neglect and abandonment. Savannah had to go into foster care because of her mother’s drug abuse and neglect. She had to survive in several homes before moving in with her grandmother. Looking for love and support she fell for a bad boy in high school who took advantage of her and got her pregnant twice. Savannah is an independent young lady who decided to keep her baby in the 9th grade. She has been raising her son with the help of the Young Parent Program and her grandmother for the past four years. Since making the decision to keep A.J. she has been working extremely hard to be a good mother. She also wanted to remain in high school and prepare for college. Unfortunately, she had to miss many days and periods of school to care for her son. In addition, she has been a contributing member of the STHS Varsity Cheerleading team. Unbelievably, she has been able to accomplish all of this without much academic support. She joined AVID last year and decided to take on even more challenging academic courses. She has learned a very valuable lesson this year when she failed to accept academic advice and chose to take on too many rigorous AP and Honors courses. This error in judgment about managing her time for school and caring for her child cost admission directly into a 4 year college. Despite her recent setback she traveled to Southern California over Spring Vacation and enrolled in school for next fall. She will now be attending a San Diego Community College.

Caitlyn is a special, independent young lady with strong character and altruistic spirit. Her goal is to continue helping people by attending college and studying medicine, Caitlyn has demonstrated hard work and determination to reach her goals. Her grades do not reflect her abilities, her story helps with understanding and evaluating all of the special qualities this young lady possesses. Her educational efforts and accomplishments have been remarkable because of the obstacles that she has had to overcome. She has been living with her father for the last four years following her parent’s divorce. Her mother was depressed and using drugs and alcohol to cope. This amazing young lady voluntarily stayed with her mother to help cook, clean, and care for both her mother and younger brother. Finally, out of a sense of self-preservation she had to leave that situation and move to Lake Tahoe with her father to survive and succeed. She has survived and will succeed with your financial assistance;she will be attending UC Santa Cruz next year.

Fabiola is a hard-working, responsible and compassionate young lady. She has two very supportive parents that rely upon Fabiola to take care of her younger brother who is at STMS. Her brother was diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome and is severely physically and mentally delayed. Since then Fabiola has spent most of her free time caring for her little brother. Fabiola needs to help her brother with everything. She is even responsible for changing her teenage brother’s diapers. Her mother and father both have to work outside the home to provide for their family. She has missed out on her childhood and may not be able to attend college. She doesn’t regret missing out on teenage experiences and has a fabulous attitude. However, she wants to go to college so she can gain the education and resources to better provide for her younger brother. She has been working hard to prepare for a career in social work and plans to attend CSU, San Jose next fall.

Araceli is a quiet, unassuming young lady. To see her in a crowd you would think her life is as normal as any other teenage girl. Sometimes looks don’t tell the whole story and that is true for Araceli. When she was fourteen years old her parents were deported and she was left with her sixteen year old sister. She became one of the underground children of South Lake Tahoe, dropping out of school and getting a job to eat and pay rent. After a year of living hand to mouth she decided to try to get back into school and ended up at MT Tallac High School. Being a year behind in school she had to work really hard taking college classes, staying after school, working at home and at the same time still supporting herself. She learned through the struggle that life is what you make it and all choices have consequences both negative and positive. She continues to amaze everyone she comes into contact with; she has become a confident student with future plans to become an interior designer. Her immediate plans are to return to Mexico to visit her parents, and then to attend LTCC in the fall with the plan to transfer to the San Jose Art Institute.
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