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AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SUCCESS

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Dennis Gonsales is pursuing a degree in psychology at Pasadena City College. His passion for this field began in high school, when he read the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. “It made me want to understand more about the mind,” he says. Despite his source of inspiration, today Gonsales finds himself driven by altruism, rather than financial gain.

The more he has learned about the field of psychology, the more he’s been driven to apply his knowledge towards helping others. One day he hopes to work with veterans who are struggling with PTSD. “I want to connect with them and understand what they’ve been through,” he says. He’s also interested in reaching out to struggling children. “I’d love to help out kids who are going through tough times, like dealing with drug abuse or living in a foster home.”

 

The more he has learned about the field of psychology, the more he’s been driven to apply his knowledge towards helping others. One day he hopes to work with veterans who are struggling with PTSD. “I want to connect with them and understand what they’ve been through,” he says. He’s also interested in reaching out to struggling children. “I’d love to help out kids who are going through tough times, like dealing with drug abuse or living in a foster home.”

In addition to his studies, Gonsales works as a security guard. He travels around the greater Pasadena area, helping protect clients from break-ins. And, he devotes his limited spare time to his creative passion: producing rhythm and blues and hip-hop music.

A LIFE-CHANGING SCHOLARSHIP

Along with years of hard work, Gonsales’ education has been made possible through an Investment in Success scholarship – a California Masonic Foundation award that recognizes students who exhibit the drive and character required for academic success, but who often have acute financial need, are first in their family to attend college, or lack adult support. Paired with academic and financial counseling, these innovative scholarships make college a reality for students who could not otherwise attend.

After being nominated by a college success partner, each Investment in Success scholar is personally interviewed by Masons in the fraternity’s regional Public Schools Advisory Councils (PSACs). When Dennis arrived for his interview appointment, he was nervous. “I’d never had an interview before,” he says. “I had no idea what to expect. I was really surprised that I was even getting an opportunity to apply.”

But, he says, the Masons made him feel comfortable right away. “They told me not to be shy; that they just wanted to get to know who I am, as a person. So, I sat down and told them about my life.”

Bro. Jhairo Echevarria has been part of the Pasadena-Glendale-Burbank PSAC for about six years, and he’s been conducting Investment in Success scholarship interviews since the beginning. On his first day as part of the council, he and another brother met with three students. “The scholarship interviews were immediately impactful,” Echevarria says. “This program is deeply aligned with our principles as Masons. We’re reaching out to our communities to create growth.”

“The kids we award truly need this scholarship. When they start telling you why, you can’t help but think of your own life and how fortunate you are and how grateful you should be for what you have,” he says. He recalls many students over the past several years who were coping with the loss of a parent, extreme poverty, parents with drug dependency, and even one who had recently lost her home. (Following the interview, the brothers helped her obtain temporary housing.) “It’s amazing that these kids are able to keep it together and get decent grades with all that is going on in their lives.”

For Gonsales, the Investment in Success scholarship came at the perfect time. There had been a problem with his financial aid, and the money he was counting on was suddenly nowhere to be found. At the same time, his mother had injured herself. She was on disability and couldn’t work. Gonsales’ security guard income wasn’t enough; the family wasn’t sure how they would afford his basic school supplies – particularly the expensive course textbooks. Thanks to Investment in Success and California Masons, he was able to continue his studies. Once again, he had surmounted a significant obstacle and bounced back.

Since participating in the PSAC, Echevarria has started donating to the California Masonic Foundation. He knows his gifts will be put to good use. “We can see when these young people really have that fire inside to better themselves and become successful…” says Echevarria. He pauses for a moment. “Talking to them changes us.”

PHOTO CREDIT: KLK Photography

More from this issue:

Family Matters

For the members of the youngest lodge in the state, American Canyon Lodge No. 875, Masonry is a multigenerational affair

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