Donaldo Barraza, Fresno High School, 2023 award winner of the first Jim Newton Memorial Scholarship

My life changed at 15 years old.  My aunt told me he was no longer with us.  When I was a freshman at Fresno High, my father was deported to Mexico.  My dad was such an inspiration to me first, he was gone physically and a year later, he was gone forever. How much more change, adversity, and loss could my family and me handle?  My dad was a family man. He always talked to my older brother and I about where he came from in Mexico: Piaxtla de Abajo, Sinaloa. He was so proud of his roots. He instilled this pride in me. My mom, my brother, and I grew up financially unstable. My mom always had 1 to 2 jobs to make life possible for the 3 of us. As far back as I can remember, my parents sacrificed so much for us.  
I have always been in love with outer space.  I remember the moment I knew I wanted to work for NASA, working on the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER), helping send them to Mars. ROVER is a system which allows ground forces to see what an aircraft is witnessing in real time by receiving images acquired by the aircraft’s sensors.

I didn’t know how this was going to happen, but I remembered my dad’s words, “Keep working hard. Eventually it will be worth it. Do not give up.”

One morning my principal, Ms. Laettner called me into her office. “Your commitment to your success has not gone unnoticed. Your 4.19 GPA is incredible. Your involvement on campus is impactful. Your kindness is felt by so many. Congratulations, Donaldo, you are the recipient of the Jim Newton Memorial Scholarship.”

The first thing I did was call my mom. She kept congratulating me. I felt how proud she was of me. I was super happy to get it. It felt so good. I felt so special. 

Two months prior, I found out I got early acceptance into my dream school Cal Poly SLO as a mechanical engineer major. It has one of the best engineering programs in California and will support me in achieving my dream job. I also found out I got into their scholar program. I will receive $4,200 every year for my tuition, free tutoring, lots of opportunities to support my success, and a brand-new computer! 
I see that it is all worth it now, just like my dad told me. My adversity, loss, hard work, and dedication brought me to this moment in my life. 
Because of scholarships and financial aid, I can go to my dream school to pursue what I really want to do with my life. I am so blessed that others want to help me in such profound ways. I am grateful they see my potential. The Fresno community is fortunate to have donors who make dreams possible. I am thankful for what they’re doing for students like me. 
Today, I am grateful for what I have and what I have just been given. I am so proud of myself, and I know my dad is, too. I cannot wait for the day I am able to support my mom financially, let her retire early, and buy her own house. Giving back like this would mean the most to me, more than anything else. This is my definition of success. 

“The moment I found out Donaldo received not one, but numerous scholarships, I burst into tears. I felt so happy. It was beautiful because I finally saw how he could accomplish his dreams. All the sacrifices I’ve made are totally worth it. This is an achievement for Donaldo, me, and our family. This is life-changing!   Fresno Unified Donors, thank you very much! Your generosity is the vehicle to making our children’s dreams a reality.”

– Sugey Osuna, Mother of Donaldo Barraza

Scholarships are a lifeline for Fresno Unified students who are ambitious, strive to reach their highest potential, and are eager to attend college but cannot because of economic deficits.