Monday, May 21 , 2018, 5:44 pm | Mostly Cloudy 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Scholarship Foundation Puts College in Reach for Those Who Need It Most

Student recipient Marissa Carrillo, philanthropist Ken Saxon provide personal perspectives on value of program

No matter how many Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara luncheons I attend — and at my age, I’ve been to a few — I’m always inspired by the student speaker. Marissa Carrillo, a UCSB junior sociology major, did not disappoint Friday.

Carrillo, a Carpinteria native, is the second oldest of eight children in what she calls “a blended family.” Hers was not an unfamiliar story: a so-so student, ran track at Carpinteria High School, a part-time job at the Best Western Carpinteria Inn, summers at the beach with her friends.

All that changed her junior year when her mom, the center of her world, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As her mother sought to reassure the close-knit family that things would be fine, Carrillo could focus on just one thing.

“Thoughts of my mom not being there for us began going through my head,” she said. “What would happen to my family terrified me.”

It was the jolt Carrillo needed to bring focus to the rest of her life. She became her mom’s primary care-giver as chemotherapy took its toll. She took increasing responsibility for her youngest brother, Pedro, who had recently been diagnosed with autism, and she learned sign language so she could teach it to him. And she committed herself to academics.

When things got tough for her, Carrillo took solace in running, which helped her clear her head. An opportunity to participate in the Orfalea Foundations’ Montana Yellowstone Expeditions further changed her life and got her thinking about her future — specifically college, even though it looked out of reach financially.

Enter the nonprofit Scholarship Foundation, which has been providing a brighter future for local students for nearly 50 years. Since its founding in 1962, in fact, the foundation has distributed a staggering $65 million in student aid to more than 27,000 Santa Barbara County youth. In 2008, Carrillo became one of them.

Just before her high school commencement, she got more good news when her mom was pronounced cancer-free. Carrillo decided to attend Ventura College, which would be less expensive than a four-year school and where she could run track. She earned a place on the Dean’s List each semester and set her sights on UCSB.

The admissions letter came while she was at work at the Carpinteria Inn. Her mom telephoned her with the news and she recalls the moment she heard her mother read the word, “Congratulations,” as one of the proudest of her life.

She still needed financial assistance, however, and the Scholarship Foundation again stepped in to help. Carrillo has been thoroughly inspired by her family and the opportunities she has been given. As a sociology major, her goal is to become a teacher working with special-needs children like her brother, “Pedrito.” As a scholarship recipient, she was excited to recount her story for more than 300 people at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort — in hopes that others would step forward to make dreams like hers come true.

That message of giving back and helping others resonated at an early age with Ken Saxon, Friday’s keynote speaker and a former board president of the Scholarship Foundation. When Saxon was a student at Princeton University in the 1980s, he was shaken by severe cuts to federal financial-aid programs that jeopardized the college careers of several of his closest friends. While his family could afford Ivy League tuition, their families could not, and Saxon vowed to do something to make the cost of higher education a lower hurdle.

Saxon went on to get an MBA at Stanford University, where he developed a love for entrepreneurialism. That experience led him to start with a classmate what he jokingly describes as “the lowest-tech company in the Silicon Valley.” Their brainchild was a records-management storage facility straight out of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

When Saxon and his wife, Jo, and their two young twins moved to Santa Barbara, the Scholarship Foundation provided him with the opportunity to re-stoke the passion of his Princeton years. He has since embraced philanthropy with an enthusiasm that is hard to suppress. He and close friend Craig Zimmerman founded FUND (Families United to Nurture Dreams), which provides their now-teenaged children hands-on experience in all aspects of nonprofit work. And he’s a force behind Courage to Lead, a program that helps develop skills and strategies for nonprofit industry executives.

Still driving him is that basic focus on education, and helping those who have earned the opportunity to attend college but need some financial help to do so.

“The idea that people like Marissa can grow up here, and be a vital part of our community, but be denied college for financial reasons bothers me as much today as it did back at Princeton,” he said.

Click here for more information on the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, or call 805.687.6065. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation or for more information on how you can support the Scholarship Foundation.

Friday’s luncheon was sponsored by Montecito Bank & Trust and Venoco Inc.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >