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  • HWAH Admin

Inaugural scholarships awarded

Carson High School senior Jennifer Acosta has witnessed firsthand the good that comes from the Holiday With a Hero program.

“My first experience with this program was in the second grade,” said the soon-to-be graduate who plans to attend Truckee Meadows Community College. “The firefighter I was given (to assist in Christmas shopping) impacted my young mind with his generosity of paying the remaining balance after going $15 over budget. He changed the way I view life ever since then. Every Christmas, I donate toys to those in need or cover the extra charge on those who need it.”

A decade after that first experience, Acosta, whose goal is to become an ultrasound technician, received one more gift from Holiday With a Hero. She is the recipient of the “Superhero” award: A $1,000 scholarship to help continue her education.

She joins fellow Carson High senior Danielle Van Dusen and Pioneer High senior Hailee Olson ($500 each) as recipients of the organization’s first scholarships.

Holiday With a Hero is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2004 that pairs students with

first-responders from the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, Carson City Fire Department and other community leaders for a day of Christmas shopping. The program is open to K-12 students enrolled in the Carson City School District’s McKinney-Vento program, which serves students living in motels, cars, campgrounds or doubling up with other families. On average, it serves 300 students each year thanks to the generosity of area businesses and residents whose donations fund the $100 gift cards each student receives.

An annual golf tournament debuted this year to fund the scholarship program.

Acosta said the scholarship will make a huge difference for her as she starts her college experience.

“I would say it’s going to help a lot, just covering the expense of books will be a big help since I’ll be majoring in Health.”

Van Dusen, who plans to attend Iowa State University and major in chemistry and English, said her experience with Holiday With a Hero was life changing.

“The Holiday With a Hero program helped me, as a second-grader, to feel included for Christmas as my family didn’t have enough money for Christmas that year,” she said, adding the program also give her a faith in adults, including the law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other first-responders in the program.

It also gave her faith in school, the teachers and administrators.

“School is truly there to support and help children and make them feel welcome,” she said.

Olson, who plans to attend Western Nevada College, and pursue a career in the medical field, said the scholarship comes at an opportune time.

“I just aged out of foster care and am working hard on my own to support myself,” she said. “The scholarship will help me reach my career goals by being able to focus more on school.”

Students who had participated in Holiday With a Hero at any point in their years with CCSD were eligible to apply.

Holiday With a Hero co-founder Meliah Gonzales said adding the scholarship program is a natural evolution for the popular program, being able to help kids beyond their K-12 years.

“When you see these kids year after year and what they overcome to succeed, it’s clear who the real heroes are,” she said. “We are really pleased to be able to give them a boost in preparing for their futures.”

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