A Brief History

…from the beginning

In 1994 a unique scholarship program was born by the desire of a group of committed community members.  These people were concerned about the same things many other communities face such as abuse, gangs, violence, drugs, and dropping out among our youth.  



Many of these “Founders” were the leaders in organizing community forums to address the issues mentioned above.  During one of these forums a young man stood up and spoke.  He voiced his appreciation for our concern and the attempts we were making to address these issues.  He then said something that became the seed for this scholarship program.  He said, “I really do think it is great that you care and that hundreds of you are here.  But, you are here because of what we did wrong, the mistakes we have made.  I have to ask, how many of you would be there if we did something right?  How many of you would notice?”

We took this idea and formed the “If Given the Chance...” Scholarship Program.  We not only wanted to recognize special youth and assist them in furthering their education or training, we wanted to show them that the community would turn out to honor them as well.  All of our recipients have overcome tremendous obstacles.  Some of these obstacles were of their own making but often they were victims, but courageous ones.  Over 67% of our recipients have been abused.

On May 19, 1995, we awarded twelve (12) youth with a $1000 scholarship each.  Senator Mike Thompson was the keynote speaker, Judge Ron Young awarded the scholarships and Dan Corsello, retired Director, Napa County Health and Human Services, was the master of ceremonies.  In addition to the scholarships, each of the young people received a Certificate of Honor from the State Senate, Assembly, and the U.S. Congress.

The recipients included teen moms, ex-gang members, a cancer survivor, a young man with cerebral palsy and a young lady who raised her siblings after her parents died and still managed a 4.0 graduating average.  We now have recipients attending Brigham Young, St. Mary's, Napa Valley College, Cal Poly, UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara.

In May of 1996 we awarded fifteen (15) scholarships to new recipients and a second year scholarship to four (4) students from the first year who have maintained satisfactory progress.  We have found that continued support encourages the completion of goals.  Too often a scholarship will be awarded and there is no further contact or support offered. Many who contributed funds wanted to know how these kids were doing.  Informally, we have added an aspect of mentoring to the program. 
Our desire to truly give these young people a chance, prompted us, in 1997, to increase the amount of the scholarships to $2,000 each.  We have implemented Continuing Support Scholarships as a permanent part of our program for those students who continue in school and make satisfactory progress.  

We award an average of $90,000 per year.  We have been honored with an excellent response from the community.  With the continued support of ongoing donors and the addition of new members of our Scholarship Supporters, we know we can meet this goal.  We have set a goal of raising $100,000 each year.  This will allow us to continue awarding at least 15 new scholarships and to support continuing students.  For 2002, we awarded 26 first year scholarships and 13 Continuing Support scholarships.  We also have given laptops and printers to students in need.  We have a plan in place to implement an endowment.  If you wish more information concerning our fundraising efforts or the endowment please contact us.

The original financial supporters included; the Gasser Foundation, Vintage Bank, Sutter Home and Robert Mondavi Wineries, Nova Group, Napa Pipe, PG&E, The Doctor's Company and many more.  Most are continuing their support, even increasing it as they have observed results.

We now have the ability to double what we are able to do on our own by the generous commitment of an individual donor to match whatever we raise.  Can you imagine the power of contributing enough for a scholarship and know that it is actually going to produce two scholarships?  One turns into two, five into ten, ten into twenty….  We know that education begins to cost more the higher you reach.  If you are seeking a Masters or a PhD, or attending Stanford, the costs of all aspects of your education go up.  We will be increasing the amount we give to continuing students depending on the school and their circumstances.

This program was truly a grassroots effort.  As it gained notice and momentum, agencies, political leaders and corporations played a direct, personal part in its success.  Everyone was deeply affected by what this program produced.  In Judge Young's words, after the first dinner, “I wish I had brought my family, this was the most moving event I have ever taken part in”.


 “If Given a Chance...” has been honored by the California State Senate and Assembly, the United States Congress, the Napa County Board of Supervisors and the community-at-large.  The program was recently awarded recognition by Massachusetts Mutual for continuing service and the founder was honored as Napa County Volunteer of the year, 1996.


The names below are those people who have diligently worked to make this program possible: (those in red helped start the program)

Dan Monez
Napa City Police Chief
Board Member    


Dr. Tony Apolloni
Associate Superintendent
Napa County Office of Education


Hector Brambila
Napa Valley College

James King
Past Napa County Planning Commissioner/Grant Writer/Fundraiser Consultant

Past Board Member

Mary Butler
Chief Probation Officer, Napa County 
Board Member    

Marylou Holt
Mayor, Town of Yountville

Greg Bennett
G & J Seiberlich
Honorary Board Member    


Ron Cox
Past Board Member    


Ann Cash
Retired, Napa Valley College Foundation


Dorothy Handy
American Association of
University Women, HHS
Past Board Member

Warren Winiarski
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Owner 

Board Member    

Denise Bleuel
Queen of the Valley Hospital
Past Board Member

Jim Rowland
Napa County Chief Probation Officer

Neil Bowman-Davis
Napa County Public Defender
Past Board Member 

Gerard Perez

Napa Valley College 

Gary LiebersteinNapa County District AttorneyHonorary Board Member

Felix Bedolla
Nuestra Esperanza Program Director
Past Board Member

Pattie Carlomagno
Napa County Health and Human Services

Polly Wagenknecht
UC Cooperative Extension

Harriet Mayeri
Marketing Research

Nita Peck
Landmark Hotels
Past Board Member

Kent Gardella
Business Owner
Past Board Member    

Patty Renfro
Napa Valley College
Past Board Member

Shirley King
Director, Napa Food Bank
Past Board Member


Charlene Steen
Criminal Psychologist
Past Board Member

Brad Wagenknecht
Napa County Board of Supervisors
Past Board Member

Dorothy Lind
Leadership Consultant
Past Board Member

Michael Pearson
Vice-Principal, Vintage High
Board Member

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