On an annual basis, TTCF partners with local scholarship committees to make more than 100 community scholarships available to help students pursue their dreams through college or vocational school.

In addition to bringing local businesses, organizations and families together as funders, TTCF provides an online platform with a common application, making it easier for the students and committees responsible for reviewing these applications.

Iran Martinez, North Tahoe High School

Angel Barajas, Sierra High School

Finding Wisdom in the Woods

Iran Martinez, recipient of six TTCF Scholarships, discovered her own determination in the wilderness.

As she was preparing to graduate from North Tahoe High School in June, Iran Pacheco Martinez embarked on her senior project—a backpacking trip with a friend to Glacier Lake in Tahoe National Forest. While hiking around the area, she worked on her map-reading skills, did a little bit of writing, and soaked in the beauty.

Iran Martinez (R) shows off a certificate from the outdoor leadership program Adventure Risk Challenge, with ARC program coordinator
Kaela Frank.

The highlight, she says, was that the trip helped her reconnect with what she describes as the most important experience of her high school years—a month-long trip to Yosemite Valley with the group Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC).

“It was beautiful,” she says of the recent trip. “It was like ARC all over again, and it just felt awesome.”

Adventure Risk Challenge is an outdoor leadership program, and Iran says she’s “excited to share” the story of her ARC experience. In an essay composed for her TTCF scholarship application, Iran writes that the month she spent in Yosemite National Park between sophomore and junior years completely shifted her expectations of what was possible for her.

During a month-long visit to Yosemite National Park with a cohort of fellow students, Iran Martinez decided to pursue big dreams.

“Before completing ARC, being a broke, working-class Latina had convinced me that I would always witness ‘The American Dream’ as a bystander, never be able to experience it myself due to my financial circumstances and legal status as a DACA dreamer. … ARC helped me realize my own academic gifts and allowed me to stop settling for mediocre academic performance with both my course scheduling and grades.”

In an interview in late June, Iran talked about how it felt to embrace her ambition.

“I snapped into a whole new mindset,” she says. “I knew that I was going to come out of that shy-Latina stereotype. It was like a switch went off in me and I was like: This is going to happen because I want it to happen. And because there are people that are willing to help me.”

Ambition and Trust

Iran said the experience shifted her thinking in one more important way. “I was able to learn to trust those who are there for you and are willing to help you—which used to be very hard for me.”

Her reluctance to seek or accept help is clearly connected to a self-reliance she learned at an early age. Iran recalls watching her mother, a housekeeper, leave home early in the morning and come home late every day. “This showed me and my siblings that you work for what you want; that nothing, obviously, is a given. I believe that is where I got a sense of independence, to be self-sufficient, and not lean on others so much.“

This sense of independence that she was developing as a young girl deepened when she was nine years old, and her mother was deported to Mexico. She says it fell on her and her brothers to help provide for the family. 

Today, rather than give voice to resentment, she says she feels grateful that she and her siblings were able to learn an important lesson while young. “I feel like it makes us independent individuals who understand that working for what you want is the way to go.”

This fall, Iran heads to Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine. She says she plans to major in political science, and “to explore other fields of study like philosophy, English and Italian.”

From there, she plans to study law, and to spend her life working for social justice. She also looks forward to one day being able to hug her mom.

“She’s my best friend,” Iran says. “We FaceTime, we text all the time, we call all the time. We’ll see her again someday. It’s a for-sure thing. I’m very excited for that day to come.”

Scholarships received: Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation Scholarship, Fred Motamedi Legacy Scholarship, McConkey Foundation Scholarship, Tahoe Donner Giving Fund Scholarship, Judge C. Anders Holmer Scholarship, Rotary Club of Tahoe City Scholarship

This is going to happen because I want it to happen. And because there are people that are willing to help me.”

Iran Martinez

Learning to Believe

Angel Barajas is headed to Truckee Meadows Community College, and he can hardly believe it.

Early on a Friday morning three weeks before he graduated from Sierra High School, Angel Barajas’ phone rang. It was TTCF calling to say he was being awarded the Jackson-Ferree Scholarship.

“I was speechless when they told me,” Angel says. Less than a year earlier, it seemed unlikely he would even graduate from high school. “I had applied, but I never thought I would actually get a scholarship. So I was very surprised—kind of shocked. And … it was actually my birthday!”

Until quite recently, Angel Barajas felt that college was not in the cards for him.

I had applied, but I never thought I would actually get a scholarship. So I was very surprised—kind of shocked. And … it was actually my birthday!”

Angel Barajas

Next fall, Angel will head to Reno to attend Truckee Meadows Community College, where he’ll study diesel mechanics. TMCC is both a trade school and a college, and thanks to the scholarship, Barajas will get a college degree, not just a trade certificate, as he was planning. This will give him the skills and credentials he needs to work on diesel semi tractor-trailer trucks, snow removal equipment, construction equipment— every kind of diesel-powered machinery.

Showing a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, Angel says he also plans to buy big rigs that are in disrepair, fix them up, and sell them. “I’d kind of like to have my own little rebuilt semi-truck company,” he says.

Angel Barajas, with mom Evelia and brother Erick, following a skydiving jump.

Barajas is grateful and also a little bit stunned by his good fortune. He shares that high school was a hard road for him, beginning with tragedy when his grandmother passed away in the summer between eighth grade and freshman year. “My grandma was pretty much like my mom to me,” he says. “I was pretty depressed going into high school—I didn’t want to leave my room. That was my first time feeling that type of sadness.”

Things got harder. When Covid hit, both of Angel’s parents lost their jobs. He was already working at a local golf course, and he took another job at a fast food restaurant, where he eventually became a manager. He felt that it was his responsibility to help put food on the table at home, and he stopped attending online classes at Truckee High despite his parents’ protestations. “I didn’t drop out,” he says, “I just couldn’t go to school.”

In the summer between his junior and senior year, everything changed. His parents found work, and Angel decided to up his academic game.

Angel, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and came here as a baby, says his immigration status had led him to feel that things were hopeless.

“I was thinking ‘I can’t really do anything with my life, so what’s the point of going to school?’ But working two jobs made me realize I did need to go to school and finish something. I was like, no. I don’t want to live like this.”

That One Special Teacher

When Angel Barajas was in fifth grade, he had a teacher who helped put him on the path to success that he now finds himself walking. Because he had spent parts of third and fourth grades in Mexico after attending first and second grades here, he had lost a fair amount of his English skills. While he quickly re-learned to communicate in English, reading had remained difficult. He recalls that “Miss Dewald,” then the vice-principal of Alder Creek Middle School, encouraged him, and by the end of fifth grade he was reading.

Angel was able to put that skill to use during his senior year, when in addition to fulfilling all of his graduation requirements at Sierra High, he took an English 1A class at Sierra College. In that class he read his first book of fiction, “Tell Me How It Ends,“ by Valeria Luiselli, which tells the story of a woman working as a translator for Central American child migrants who are seeking refuge in the U.S.

“I actually got attached to that book,” he recalls. Angel looks forward to reading more books, “to gain more knowledge,“ while pursuing his diesel mechanics degree. And he has a more immediate goal in mind—something he intends to do in the next couple weeks. 

“From Donner Lake,” he says, “I can see a really high mountain. I want to go hike it, and see the view from up there.”