Garrett Hesser graduated at the top of his class at Calaveras High School in 2022, alongside his cousin Emma Alliende, who tied with him for the title of top valedictorian.
Hesser was recently awarded a scholarship of $20,000, to be distributed over four years of his college education, from Golden 1 Credit Union, headquartered in Sacramento.
A press release stated, “Golden 1 Credit Union (Golden 1) is pleased to announce it has awarded Calaveras High School graduate Garrett Hesser a scholarship. Hesser is among 43 exceptional students throughout California to receive a Golden 1 scholarship, which are awarded based on a student’s academic achievements, community involvement, extracurricular activities, education, and career goals.”
During Hesser’s commencement earlier this summer, the valedictorian shared a moving speech that compared the fresh graduates to newly hatched salmon “released from our aquarium and swimming downstream in search of the vast ocean ahead.”
Now, Hesser is settling into that vast ocean—getting used to life in the dorms at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is studying ecosystem management and forestry with a focus on watershed and range land management.
While life in Berkeley is pretty different than the cattle ranch in Poloma where Hesser grew up, the optimistic freshman says that “it’s been a very smooth transition” thanks to the opportunities and education he received while at Calaveras High.
Speaking about the education Hesser received in Calaveras County, he said, “as long as you put into it what you get out of it, you’re able to get a great education. ... I personally think it's great.”
Aside from a great education, Hesser’s career goals—becoming a rangeland manager or forest ranger—were directly influenced by his life in Calaveras County, according to the press release issued by Golden 1 Credit Union.
“Growing up on a rural cattle ranch in the foothills of Calaveras County, Hesser witnessed how the drought, fires, and overgrazing of cattle affect the water that enters local watersheds. These experiences drove him to want to major in ecosystem management and forestry at the University of California, Berkeley to pursue his passion for watershed and range land management.”
Hesser was quoted, saying, “A career path in ecosystem management and forestry will allow me to serve my community daily and help address one of my generation's greatest challenges: conserving and protecting the world's most valuable resource—water.”
Hesser was also praised for his extracurricular activities during high school, which included cross-country, and acting as a regional officer for the Future Farmers of America. More notably, when his high school closed down during the pandemic, Hesser went to work in the field, enrolling in the Calaveras County Fire Academy where he served 300 hours as a volunteer firefighter.
Hesser plans to resume volunteer firefighting work when he can, but for now he is getting involved in clubs, like the Forestry Club, while he continues his studies.
Classes at UC Berkeley began on Aug. 24, and Hesser says “it’s going really good. I’m definitely enjoying it and settling in.”
Hesser is grateful for the scholarships and support he’s received, especially those from local organizations. In addition to the Golden 1 scholarship, Hesser was awarded over a dozen more scholarships at the local level.
“We had an incredible turn out of donors at the local level, and they were incredibly generous and supportive of (Calaveras High School) students,” said Hesser.
The Golden 1 Credit Union Scholarship Program provides members and their dependents financial assistance, valued at up to $20,000 per student, for full-time students who plan to attend accredited, nonprofit two-year community colleges or four-year colleges and universities in California. Since the program began in 2013, Golden 1 has awarded nearly 500 scholarships to college-bound students throughout the state.
For more information, visit golden1.com/our-community/scholarships.