Alumni establish scholarship fund to support the next generation of students

by Kathleen Rhodes Schock


Walking the Fresno State campus, Jose and Clara Plascencia see a lot of themselves in today’s students. Both raised in rural Central Valley communities by families without the means to fund a college education, Jose and Clara defied the odds.

Jose, a first-generation college student, says that it was work — not school — that was expected of him after graduating from Orosi High School. Clara says her academic performance at Porterville High School limited her options to community college. “With our backgrounds, we know the challenges that many students face,” Jose says.

But the couple also knows the success that’s possible by staying the course.

An MBA from Fresno State propelled Jose to his role as a general manager in the insurance and travel industry, and a bachelor’s in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in chemistry from Fresno State is the foundation of Clara’s work in pharmaceutical research and development focusing on life-saving oncology medications. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Fresno State, so now we are giving back,” Jose says.

The couple recently donated $25,000 to establish the Jose and Clara Plascencia Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will award scholarships for graduates of Orosi or Porterville high schools who have declared majors within the Craig School of Business or the College of Science and Mathematics.

“It feels amazing to be in a position to set something like this up,” Clara says. “This is the University I had to fight to even qualify to attend. So for me to come full circle, it’s a great source of pride.”

Like many students, Clara transferred to Fresno State from a community college and worked full time as a cook in Yosemite while attending classes. “I would work and go to school, then during the summer make as much money as I could to save up for tuition and books. Luckily, tuition and books were much less then.”

By working while going to school, both were able to graduate without debt, an achievement they admit is difficult for students today. “We know that it is a tremendous challenge for any student because of the tuition they face,” Jose says. “So when the idea of an endowment came around, directed toward students with similar backgrounds as ours, we knew it was just the right thing to do.”

With a young family to support (they are parents to 9-year-old Benjamin and 6-year-old Samuel), the Plascencias admit they do not fit the typical profile of a university philanthropist, but they call on more alumni in their position to find ways to support the University that helped launch their success.

“We’re just giddy,” Jose says of the experience of giving. “Having the ability to give back brings us an incredible amount of joy.”