Welcome to the “family.”
That was the message from NUSD Board President Sue Heredia last night as she and her husband, Salvador Arriaga, presented two $500 scholarships in memory of her late son, Salvador, a former Nighthawk junior varsity football coach who died an untimely death nine years ago at age 26.
To Heredia and her husband, the scholarships are very personal, given to Nighthawk football players who reflect key values of her son. This year’s honorees are varsity quarterback Adrian Torres and one of the few girls ever to play Nighthawk football, Karina Hernandez, who made varsity as a defensive back.
“We consider you part of the family when you receive this scholarship,” Heredia told the two winners, both seniors, encouraging them to email her with reports of their college progress or if they ever need advice or a helping hand along the way, such as someone to read and advise them on a college application.
Adrian and Karina said the Heredia-Arriaga scholarship is special to them, not only for the money but for the values it represents. It goes each year to Nighthawk football players who perform well in the classroom, want to attend college, exhibit good citizenship, and are committed to making their community a better place.
“When you have people recognizing and seeing what you’re doing to improve the community, it means a lot,” Adrian said.
Added Karina, “My dad always told me that money comes and goes, but people coming into your life, that’s very valuable.”
Community donations launched the scholarship in honor of Salvador Heredia-Arriaga. He was a graduate of Natomas High who returned to his alma mater – as “Coach A” – after graduating from UC Santa Cruz. Besides coaching Nighthawk junior varsity football, he was a substitute teacher and was attending law school.
In a face-to-face meeting with Adrian and Karina before formally presenting the scholarships at Natomas High’s annual awards night Tuesday, Heredia told the winners that her son was a strong believer in helping kids attend college. “A lot of kids would say to him, ‘I don’t have the money to go to school, I don’t have the support,’ and he’d always say, ‘I’ll help you.’”
Both Adrian and Karina have grade point averages well above 3.0 and both plan to attend college next year – at Sacramento State and Sacramento City College, respectively. Adrian plans to study criminal law, while Karina wants to obtain a cosmetology license, then transfer to Sacramento State for business classes.
Both Nighthawks played multiple sports in the past four years. Adrian was named Natomas High’s male “Athlete of the Year” on Tuesday. He was an all-league quarterback who passed for nearly 4,000 yards as a junior and senior. Adrian also played baseball, basketball, and wrestled. Karina was a first-year football player – she had a difficult time persuading her parents to let her join the varsity team – but she had participated in basketball, cross country, and Powder Puff competition as a Nighthawk.
Heredia singled out Karina’s selflessness. In her application, the 18-year-old wrote that she hoped to win the scholarship to help defray costs of books and other expenses at Sacramento City College. “However, if one of my football brothers is applying for this scholarship and going to a four-year school, then (he) should receive this scholarship opportunity,” she wrote. “A four-year school is more expensive, and I’d rather have him get the help he needs, in my opinion.”
Adrian, in his application, explained how sports have been a positive force in his life, helping him overcome depressing family challenges. He expressed a commitment to “improve the community by encouraging the youth to follow their dreams of continuing to play sports and show them the beauty of playing sports.”
Heredia said the notion of giving back to others was important to her son, Salvador. “We always said to our kids, ‘You’re privileged because you have people around who care about you, you’re privileged because you’re going on to school, so there is no excuse for not giving back to the community.’”
She urged Adrian and Karina to carry on her son’s priorities of reaching out to others and helping youth succeed. “We hope that someday the two of you will come back and do something for Natomas, or the kids of Natomas, or at least another community if you live far away.”