Everyday Heroes

18-Year-Old Starts College Scholarship Fund to Give Back to Her Hometown

While she could have spent the money a number of ways, she chose to give back to the community that helped her when she was struggling.


Fabiola Moreno Ruelas is a California girl, but she grew up far from the fancy designer stores and sprawling mansions of Beverly Hills. Ruelas moved to the small town of Gonzales, located in the heart of the agricultural valley of California, when she was two years old. Soon after her family arrived at the Central Coast town, her father, who was undocumented, was deported.

While Ruelas grew up poor and struggled for most of her life, she says the people in Gonzales were always supportive of her and her family. They donated cheap clothes, helped them sign up for food stamps and some people even gave them a place to stay when they were evicted from their home during her sophomore year of high school.

@kickinitwithcady

Adding to her troubles, Ruelas was in a serious car accident during her freshman year where she fractured her skull, wrist and back. Thankfully she, along with the other riders and driver of the car, survived the crash.

Despite the setbacks she experienced, Ruelas (pictured below, far left) excelled in school and joined the Gonzales Youth Council, eventually becoming a youth commissioner of the council where she would represent the body at school board and city council meetings.

Fabiola Moreno Facebook

When it came time to apply to college, Ruelas was unsure if she would have the funds to go, but her mentors at City Hall encouraged her to apply. After a visit to the campus, she applied and was accepted to San Diego State University. She earned an additional scholarship from a local organization in Gonzales to help her pay for room and board. At just 17, she would be the first person in her family to attend college.

When Ruelas turned 18, she unexpectedly received $29,000 as part of an insurance settlement from her car accident. While she considered several possibilities for the money, like buying her mother a house or starting a business, she wanted to give back to the community that gave her so much. So, she set up her own scholarship fund called the Ruelas Family Scholarship for Gonzales high school seniors who needed extra money to afford college expenses.

Ruelas (middle) poses in front of her new college, SDSU. Fabiola Moreno Facebook

In March, Ruelas awarded her first scholarships - $500 each to four students. She's planning to provide similar awards over the next two years, and she's working to raise money to give even more. One of the first students who was awarded the scholarship was the student who ran against Ruelas for the youth commissioner position.

"I was a little selfless in thinking about this money, but everyone in Gonzales was very selfless in helping me growing up," she told the Desert Sun. "Our community put us first."

You can contribute to the Ruelas Fulfillment Scholarship GoFundMe campaign by clicking here. All proceeds will go to fund awards that help students buy school supplies, dorm essentials, books and more.

(Source: images and video Fabiola Moreno Facebook)

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