When Vianney Gonzalez tosses her graduation cap into the air Saturday, June 11, she will be one step closer to her career goal. And this student is moving fast: After completing her bachelor’s in sociology in just three years, she is now working toward a master’s in school counseling.
Several experiences have pointed her toward this path, including the mentorship she received from her school guidance counselors growing up and her current job working with autistic youth at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She also volunteers with a coalition in Arvin called Adelante, which involves parents, youth and community members to educate people about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
There is another reason Vianney has been able to fast track her goal: She is a recipient of the Skeet Varner Foundation Scholarship, a $4,000 award that is renewable each year.
“Vianney is very much oriented to helping other people and she is a very compassionate young lady,” Varner said.
The main criteria for the scholarship is financial need. Vianney’s father is a truck driver and her mother was laid off this year from a warehouse job. Varner dropped out of high school to help with the family garbage removal business and eventually became president of Varner Bros. Inc. and appointed to the California Waste Management Board.
“Education is a valuable tool that gives you a step up. In my circumstances, an education would have helped but I didn’t let it interfere. It is rewarding to me to be able to help people who would not have gotten help from anybody else,” Varner said.
And when those people pay the help forward, a single candle can light the world. As a school counselor, Vianney wants to help young people make the right choices in life.
“I want to mentor them, motivate them to go to college, be there for them if they’re having problems, and be someone they can talk to without being judged. I want to help them better themselves,” Vianney said.
Vianney’s sister, Patty, has also been a positive influence on her. One year older than her, Patty is also graduating Saturday. Patty’s degree is in psychology and the two will pursue the master’s in school counseling together.
When the sisters were looking into graduate school, Patty came up with the idea of them applying together.
“She said, ‘You think you can finish in three years?’” Vianney said. “I said, ‘Yah, I just need these classes. I think I can do it. Then I talked to my advisor, and she said, ‘Yah, you can do it.’”
And she did. Congratulations, Vianney.