Sierra College Foundation: Committed to Student Success
The Sierra College Foundation gives—and GIVES. In small letters, the word encapsulates the organization’s mission. In capital letters, it’s the perfect acronym for their programs.
Since its founding in 1973, the nonprofit has supported students with money and resources—and its mission then is its mission now: Giving the community the opportunity to invest in the development of quality educational opportunities for all. “Our only purpose,” says Executive Director Sonbol Aliabadi, “is to help the students at Sierra.” To that end, the organization raises money and matches it with student needs—necessities that often extend beyond schoolbooks.
The five GIVES programs are:
• Guardian Scholars: These are students 18 and older who have aged out of the foster care system and do not have funds for college. Not only does the foundation help these students financially, but it provides them with tools, such as backpacks with school supplies, personal items and handmade quilts; some live in the dorms and receive meal cards for food. According to Aliabadi, less than three percent of foster kids go to college. Sierra is one of only two community colleges in California with a program that supports these students.
One of those rare students is Raquel Magadan, currently in her last semester before transferring to a four-year university. She entered foster care at age nine and is close to her foster family, but they cannot fund her education. As a Guardian Scholar, she lives in a dorm and works on campus. “Without this program,” the determined Magadan says, “I would have gone to college, but I would not have as much support as I do.” Magadan is pursuing a sociology degree “so I can pay back. I’ve had so many people help me. I want to be able to help someone else.”
• Innovation: In partnership with Rocklin’s HackerLab, the foundation encourages students to become creative entrepreneurs. Reminiscent of Shark Tank, groups of students pitch business ideas for a chance to win small start-up grants. HackerLab provides space and equipment for students to work on projects.
• Veterans Services: The Veterans Resource Center helps vets assimilate into civilian life, which can include counseling and navigating the G.I. Bill, as well as providing money when needed. Some veterans are too proud to ask, Aliabadi says. “We’re extremely grateful for their service, and we offer as much support as we can.”
• Emergency Grants: One-time stipends are expended for “true, true emergencies,” such as helping students who have no food or shelter. Starting this semester, a campus food pantry gives out free food, no questions asked.
• Scholarships: Over 200 students a year receive a total of more than $300,000 in scholarship money. Scholarships can be need– or merit-based, and donors can specify criteria for recipients. sierracollege.edu/foundation