Scholarship continues a legacy of community service

Life Through Optimistic Eyes

It started out as a normal volunteer shift for Victoria, packing produce bags at Second Harvest Food Bank with her fellow volunteer Dan.* But then a conversation between them changed the way Victoria saw the world. They had been volunteering together for a while, but what Victoria didn’t know was that Dan had been suffering from cancer the entire time. “One day Dan told me he was undergoing chemotherapy. He shared with me that he was on disability and receiving food support but that he loved helping the community and giving back any way he could.” The ground shifted under Victoria that day because she saw the extent of how generous and outwardly focused a person could be even in the midst of their own suffering.

The Second Harvest Food Bank truck making its rounds during COVID-19.

A Changing World

A little over a year later, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dan’s example of perseverance and kindness kept Victoria grounded in her values of community service as her world crumbled around her. Due to domestic violence in her family, Victoria began experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, lack of internet access, and learning how to cope with being on her own. But amidst doing school remotely on her phone and working full time at a restaurant, she kept returning for her volunteer shifts at the food bank. “Despite everything I have gone through and am going through, I see life with optimistic eyes. I do not allow my complicated life to interfere with volunteering or school. I take pride in my academic performance and I know that through educating myself I will be able to create a better community with more compassionate and understanding human beings.”

Now a graduate of high school in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD), Victoria is the recipient of the first ever Bert and Carolyn Post Scholarship and enrolled at UC Santa Cruz for the fall quarter. A first-generation college student, Victoria plans to major in psychology, obtain a master's of education, and eventually become a teacher. “My teachers were mentors and this past year, checked in with me every day to help in any way they could. I want to be able to help like that.”

Retired educators Bert & Carolyn Post

Dreams of Higher Education

Like Victoria, Bert and Carolyn Post are driven to give back to the community they have called home for over four decades. The Posts both started out as classroom teachers but soon became principals and then assistant superintendents in PVUSD, striving to improve the quality of education at a systems level. As lifelong educators, the Posts felt the best way they could continue to help in their retirement was to support a student’s dream of higher education. They chose the Community Foundation to steward their fund because, “All we had to do was provide the money and guidelines on how we’d like it to be distributed. The Foundation and scholarship selection committee takes care of everything else,” explains Carolyn.

Victoria taking her first steps into a new life.

Giving Back, Paying Foward

“We want to help someone make the next step,” says Bert, “and who knows, when they get a little older, maybe they can pay it forward.” But Victoria is already on that road, knowing that there is no bigger reward in life than helping people on their toughest days. She says, “Essentials that are usually taken for granted are luxury items for others. It’s always humbling to see a bag of food bring tears to someone’s eyes.” Victoria believes in the core of her being that giving back is about making a difference and having a positive impact. “There is no bigger reward,” she says, “than seeing a smile on someone’s face that you’ve been able to help.” She’s determined to pursue higher education so she can keep giving back. “Knowledge is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and cannot be taken from me.”

*Victoria & Dan’s names are pseudonyms to protect their privacy.