"We can only live the stories we have been told."
The Serendipity Scholarship got its name from a chance encounter.
12 years ago, in an airport bar, an anonymous donor serendipitously met a local high school teacher. The teacher was obviously upset and struggling with the harsh reality of the fact that though her own children just went off to college, the young people she teaches face insurmountable hurdles paying for university tuition. Their lives' opportunities were limited by their families' difficult financial circumstances.
As she sat crying, he kindly asked her, "What's the matter?"
The teacher took a breath and told the stranger the story of one of her student's who needed someone in his corner. He was accepted to an ivy league school without means to attend. The boy's father was imprisoned and his mother, murdered. Our anonymous donor wrote a check on the spot to "bridge the gap" so the boy could attend the school of his dreams. This first student has since graduated from Cornell and is now running a boys school.
The donor's checks became annual gifts and increased over time to help more than 50 students. The donor's children have joined in the fun and are planning to carry on the legacy of this amazing gift. This mysterious donor, a random stranger in an airport with no connection to Reno, changes lives. He gives freely and unselfishly without interest in recognition.
His gift is more than money.
The real impact of this chance meeting and generous-beyond-words gift is that the culture of one of our public high schools is changing. The student body, which not too long ago, had limited the vision for their lives, now sees their potential mirrored in the kids who made it. Students have attended UNR and TMMC with the Serendipity Scholarship as well as Sara Lawrence, Dartmouth, University of Portland, and UC Davis. Optimism is growing. Students believe they can further their education, do well and accomplish dreams with or without a scholarship. Successful college students are paying it forward, have returned to speak to classes about their college experiences. They are living and telling a story of fulfillment, personal growth, and success that the younger students can take to heart.
2014 was the first year The Community Foundation managed the Serendipity Scholarship. We are honored to do so and I am thrilled to tell you this true story.