Student Stories

Lives are being changed. Our students share their stories here…

Student Stories

Lives are being changed. Our students share their stories here…

Luz Robles

“As a working student I was grateful that scholarship assistance relieved a financial burden.”

“The Dr. Chris McCarthy Scholarship helped me immensely with my academic and mental health. As a working student, I was truly grateful to have my financial burdens relieved with this scholarship assistance. I was able to afford my educational costs and other bills without having to increase my hours at work. This allowed me more time to spend with my family and my studies, which greatly reduced my stress.”

Aisha Burns

“Jumping into the world of higher education at the age of 24 was intimidating. To fully commit myself to college, I had to work less, which meant less income. The Napa Valley College Foundation’s scholarship program provided me with a lifeline.”

Aisha is the first in her family to attend College, and her story starts on September 3rd, 2004, at Honolulu airport with a tearful farewell to her father. As Aisha tells it, “I was uprooted from my home in Oahu to start a new life in Vallejo, California with my mother and my sisters. I traded sunshine and palm trees for cold bay breezes and prickly pine leaves.”

The next few years weren’t easy. Aisha attended five schools over the next two years, enduring violent fights and apathetic teachers. By the time she reached the 10th grade, she dropped out at the age of 15. Aisha had to provide for her family, so she went to work:
“Being a low-income family, I got a full-time job to help my mom pay the bills. I had to choose this over school simply to survive. But I never lost my hope. I knew I had to get my diploma, so I spent months preparing for the California High School Proficiency exam and took the test. I passed it on my first try, and received my certificate at 17, a whole year earlier than the rest of my former high school class.”

With her diploma, Aisha was able to secure low-wage employment, but it became harder to make ends meet. She knew she was stuck, and she had to find a way to lift herself out. Aisha had to find a lifeline. Napa Valley College provided that lifeline. The College Foundation’s scholarship program was designed for students like Aisha, students who were forced to choose between working to survive and getting an education.

“Jumping into the world of higher education at the age of 24 was intimidating. To fully commit myself to college, I had to work less, which meant less income. The Napa Valley College Foundation’s scholarship program provided me with the funding I needed to supplement my income and allow me to stay in college. I’ve now earned four degrees in science, mathematics, physics, and healthcare.”

Today, Aisha is enrolled at University of California, Davis, earning her bachelor’s in physics with plans to attend graduate school with a focus on medical physics. Aisha is thriving, thanks to the support of the Foundation’s scholarship donors. Although there can only be one Aisha Burns, there are thousands of other students who have the same dreams as Aisha.

Ciairra Duffy

“I honestly cannot express my gratitude enough for the scholarship I received. It’s allowed me to focus on the things that are very important: my education and discovering my passion.”

“I want to express my gratitude for the donors who provide these scholarships, enabling me to further my degree. I’ve completed a lot of things I never thought I’d do because of your help. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but without the donors’ generosity, I would have never made it. I will always be grateful for this kindness. ”

“This scholarship has made a big difference in my education, allowing me to focus more on reaching my educational goals. This scholarship allowed me to maximize the college experience through service-learning, volunteer opportunities and internships.”

Chris Lemley

“The support of others helped me to believe in my own abilities, and it changed how people see me now. Because of this support, I’ve accomplished the dreams I’ve set for myself.”

Growing up, Chris chose a difficult path of doing drugs, skipping school and getting in trouble with the law. He lacked confidence and saw that everyone looked at him like a loser, someone without a future. And for the most part, everyone did. Everyone except Leonard, his grandfather. Leonard saw in Chris something that others missed. He saw potential, and never gave up on pushing Chris to pursue an education. He believed in Chris, and this belief brought hope.

Chris never forgot the hope that his grandfather gifted him. It is this hope that led him to get his life back on track and attend classes at Napa Valley College. Sometime later Chris was struggling in a chemistry class. Professor Steven Fawl remembers Chris’s intelligence and tenacity.

“He would often come into my office and ask for help,” Fawl says. “I saw potential in him so I was harder on him than I would normally be. I gave him fewer direct answers and made him work through some problems with less help. I saw something in Chris. Rather than give up, he rose to the challenge and excelled in my class.”

Chris soon became a Napa Valley College Instructor and is close to completing his bachelor’s degree in physics. Chris provides hope for his students in the same way that he received hope. “I tell my students to believe in the me who believes in you,” says Chris.

Alfredo Orea

“The wine program is giving me the opportunity to put everything together – the scholarship makes it worth it emotionally and financially.”

Alfredo Orea’s story is one of needing help, getting help, and now being able to help his community:

“Last semester was one of the most difficult ones, as I took microbiology in the wine program. I have a dream of starting my own vineyard, but this class was not easy. As a father and husband, I face different challenges than other students. But thanks to the College, I was lucky to be one of only a few students who passed the class. And thanks to the scholarships, I can continue studying and achieving my dreams.”

Alfredo is now able to make his career dreams come true and give back to his community, thanks to the generosity of college donors. The loyal gifts to the annual fund allow the College to allocate resources where they are needed most.

One donor who understands the value of giving back to the College and his community is Napa Valley vintner Hugh Davies. His family established a scholarship that directly helped Alfredo achieve his educational dreams. As Hugh puts it:

“The JLD Napa Agricultural Land Preservation Fund is proud to support committed students like Alfredo Orea who seek to better prepare themselves for careers in agriculture.  As a re-entry, student parent, and as a USMC Veteran, he is an exemplary scholarship recipient, one who will truly benefit from this financial assistance in pursuit of higher education.”

Kristina Zmuda

“Because of the kindness offered from the scholarship donors, I was able to transfer to UC Davis and I’m currently studying Viticulture and Enology with plans to graduate in 2023.”

“I’m very fortunate to have been a student at Napa Valley College, and I hold the college near and dear to my heart for the great foundations and new opportunities it has given me. I found NVC in 2016 as a “returning student” after spending several years out of academia–only then to decide that I wanted to set my sights even further by transferring to a University and earning a bachelor’s degree.”

“Not only was I supported along the way by wonderful staff and instructors, but my hard work and determination to keep pushing forward was encouraged by generous donors. The scholarships that I was awarded were a tremendous help in seeing me through various unstable periods, moving between different cities and jobs, and at times grappling with how to make ends meet while commuting long distances to my classes.”

“I am so grateful for all the help that I have received, and for the advocates who stood behind me and helped me forge a new path for myself. I’m currently studying Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis and I plan to graduate in 2023.”

Basma Saleh

“This scholarship has helped me purchase notebooks, calculators, and other school materials to help me succeed in school. The scholarship that I received provided for my personal educational needs. As a small business owner, my father has struggled to provide for my family, especially during the pandemic. Simply making ends meet to pay the utility bills is a challenge some months. There certainly hasn’t been room in our family’s budget for those school supplies necessary for my education at Napa Valley College.”

“The award of this scholarship changed everything. I was able to purchase the school supplies I needed—notebooks, pens, calculators, and other materials necessary for my classes. I was also able to pay for my phone bill to keep in touch with my school counselors and my family. This support relieved my father from having to make tough financial choices.”

“Last semester I earned A’s in all my classes, something my parents are incredibly proud of. I’ll be forever grateful for the scholarship assistance.”

Marissa Wilkins

“Words cannot express my gratitude for the funds I received through the donor’s generosity in support of students at Napa Valley College.”

“I’m forever grateful to those generous donors who donate to the Napa Valley College Foundation and us students. Thanks to the scholarship assistance, I was able to pay for my last semester of nursing school, and study for my nursing board exams. I want to personally thank all who generously contribute to the Napa Valley College Foundation’s scholarship funds. I would not have completed my last semester of nursing school without their support.”