There's Hope

Does the daily news have you down? The following accountings of three local young people might pick you up.

Vincent “Vinny” Fausone lives in Petaluma and last month graduated from Casa Grande High. At first glance, his record looks good, but nothing great. He maintained a B average; he was on the junior varsity football, swimming and cross-country teams; and his SAT scores were in the 85th percentile and above.

Yet, there’s more to Vinny. For four years in a row, he’s made varsity wrestling. Then, as a senior, he worked hard to qualify for the state championships and—despite a broken hand and torn shoulder—he made it. For fun, Vinny has run the grueling Dipsea—from Mill Valley 7.4 miles to Stinson Beach—every year since he was 10. And to help with family expenses, he works at a Petaluma restaurant. “Vinny is a very hard worker and an extremely personable young man,” says Jim Selvitella, the grill’s owner.

Last summer, Vinny went to the Dominican Republic to build homes and deliver food to impoverished neighborhoods. At 18, he has a passion for writing and recently he placed first in a Copperfield’s Books writing contest. Vinny’s English teacher, Lynne Moquete, says this about him: “He has a tender soul and an outstanding work ethic. His life accomplishments will be amazing, as he was made for greatness.” This fall, Vinny enrolls at Long Beach State University—helped by scholarships from the Dipsea Race Foundation and the Olympic Club.

Four years ago, at age 14, Xochitl (pronounced “zoe-chee”) Fierros arrived from Mexico to attend Tamalpais High School. Her older sister, who lives in Strawberry, was her legal guardian and Xochitl was on a student visa. “Her English was extremely limited,” says counselor Priscilla Gordon. “Yet I could see she was motivated, very determined; she had a confident, but not cocky, smile.”

Within a year, says Gordon, Xochitl’s English improved dramatically as she entered into the school’s social fabric. “She surrounded herself with the right kids,” Gordon says, “and she really blossomed.” So confident is Xochitl—now fluent in English—that she held a leadership position in Link Crew, an activity that assists incoming students; she has also taken several college-level courses and earned an overall 3.45 GPA.

“Xochitl is a remarkable young woman,” says Traci Lanier of 10,000 Degrees (formerly the Marin Education Fund), a nonprofit that provides guidance and assistance to hundreds of similarly determined students from all walks of life. “First-generation college students, like her, pursue a dream and, in doing so, change the surrounding community for generations to come.” This fall, Xochitl Fierros will attend College of Marin, and then she will transfer to Dominican University of California, where a scholarship awaits her. After not seeing her daughter for four years, Xochitl’s mother was in Marin and witnessed her graduate from Tam High.

“When his mother, Anne-Marie, and I divorced, it hit Chris really hard,” is how George Adams recalls the time five years ago when his oldest boy started getting in fights, avoiding schoolwork and swearing at his parents and teachers. Equally important, Chris played sports. “He was a stocky little guy,” says his dad, “good, but not the greatest.”

Chris was enrolled at Redwood High, where his problems continued. “He got Fs in English and math,” says his dad, “so we transferred him to Drake High where he had friends, hoping that would help.” It did not. Then in 2007, Chris asked his father, who’d long been involved in local athletics, if he could help him get into Marin Catholic High School. As a favor to his dad, Chris was accepted—provided he got As in summer school (he did). Also, his parents, though still divorced, had to pool resources to meet the hefty tuition fees (they did).

In his junior year, after a summer of grueling workouts with his dad—along with constant tutoring from San Geronimo’s Kathy Franks—Chris made All League as a linebacker and a place on Marin Catholic’s academic honor roll. As a senior, Chris, a 6-foot-one-inch, 215-pound running back, scored 30 touchdowns, led his team to the state championship, made All State and was ESPN’s Bay Area Athlete of the Year. He also became a lifetime member of Marin Catholic’s Honor Society. This fall, Chris will attend an East Coast prep school and he hopes to earn a scholarship to Stanford, Cal or a similar-caliber East Coast university.

These days, a little good news goes a long way. That’s my point of view. What’s yours?

E-mail jwood@marinmagazine.com.