By Roel Godinez
Seven graduating high school students were each awarded $1,000 in scholarships by the Bill de la Fuente foundation last Thursday, June 14th. On this second annual awards night, the foundation’s leaders hosted a dinner, speakers, and a raffle before presenting the award winners with their prizes. These scholarships were all donations from North County small businesses.
“This is about the local community giving back, giving to their students,” said realtor and foundation founder Claudia Tapia.
“These are checks from people who worked really hard for 16 to 18 hour days to keep their businesses alive. Its a real effort to say ‘let me give back and make a difference in the life of someone else.’ We don’t raise funds from corporations or grants, it’s really important that it comes from these small business owners who want to make a difference and help their communities.”
Each of the scholarship recipients are from high schools in Escondido, Oceanside, and San Marcos and completed the AVID curriculum, a set of classes dedicated to college preparedness. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination https://www.avid.org/ and was s theme spoken of by many of the speakers throughout the evening.
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These speakers honored the scholarship recipients and offered their own stories and experiences as motivation. One such speaker was Cal State San Marcos’s Student Coordinator and Project Specialist, Celia Martinez. Martinez described the many challenges that she faced throughout her education, challenges that many students from low- income immigrant families face.
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Another special guest speaker was the distinguished Dr. Julian Nava. Born in 1927, Nava has served as an educator, American diplomat, and public speaker. On this night, he focused on how treatment of Mexican Americans has changed substantially in the past 50 years. After Nava closed his speech, the seven award winners were called to the front of the room, given certificates, and envelopes containing the rewards. Following this, each winner gave a short speech on his or her own struggles and successes that were faced throughout their educations.
“My journey was not easy at all when I started elementary school,” said award winner Gaudalupe Ortega. “In kindergarten, I could only speak Spanish and kids would bully me for not knowing English. Teachers would tell me that I wouldn’t go anywhere, One even went as far as to say that because I was poor and because I was Mexican, I would end up just being a teenage mom or in jail. The fact that nobody expected me to go to college really showed me that I was being underestimated as well as many other minorities who share a similar story.” Ortega will now be attending Dartmouth University in the fall.
The funds awarded to these students will help them pay for the costly tuition that universities demand. It was out of this necessity that the Bill de la Fuente Scholarship foundation was formally established in 2017. Prior to the foundations creation, there was a very similar organization called the Comerciantes Latinos Asociados which was headed by Bill de la Fuente himself until his retirement in 2015. It was his eventual departure from the organization that inspired Claudia Tapia to create this new foundation under his name.
Mr. Bill de la Fuente has been a personal mentor to me for many years,” said Tapia. “I think that one of the things that I really saw in him and his leadership was that he’s always had so much integrity in what he represented, how he did it, and why. He was never someone who was swayed or influenced by finances or titles or any other source of vanity. He was always honest and truthful about wanting to make a difference in the lives of hardworking students that are to him and to all of us the future.”