Commitment to community service

Xavier Gonzalez gives back through the Student Philanthropy Council.

Passion for service is what drives Xavier Gonzalez, a junior athletic training major. This desire to give back started long before he attended Northern Arizona University.

Growing up in a large family—where everyone relied on each other—instilled within Gonzalez the importance of helping others, and he began participating in community service events as early as the fifth grade. Whether it was helping to build a house or plant a garden, Gonzalez found immediate gratification in his work helping others.

“I became involved with community service, and it just made me feel good,” Gonzalez says. “It gave me the chance to see beyond my own neighborhood, and how a group of individuals can come together and make a difference.”

Gonzalez remained committed to community service through his middle school and high school years, and has continued into his undergraduate career, where he is now involved with the Student Philanthropy Council (SPC) at Northern Arizona University.

Humble beginnings

Although Gonzalez knew he wanted to attend a university from a young age, the road to attaining his degree was not always clear because of his family’s financial situation. However, thanks to his exemplary grades and the community service work he performed in high school, Gonzalez was eligible for a combination of grants and financial aid that made attending Northern Arizona University a possibility. 

“I received a university grant, a trust grant, and then I received a scholarship from the Tostitos Cesar Chavez foundation scholarship. It was only because of that help that was I able to continue my education.”

When the SPC sent him an e-mail asking students to join and volunteer, Gonzalez knew he had found the right cause for his calling.

“The SPC’s e-mail was to the point. I literally responded to them, ‘This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for,’” Gonzalez says.

Members of the SPC raise money to help fund the Senior Legacy Scholarship, the NAU Philanthropy Scholarship, the Graduate College Scholarship and Fellowship, and the Graduate Student Travel Fund. The organization is also connected with the Flagstaff community through the volunteer work its members perform at several Flagstaff organizations, including St. Mary’s Food Bank and the Coconino Humane Society.

Gonzalez works with the SPC on these projects, ranging from donation drives for scholarship funds to community service events, such as collecting food for St. Mary’s Food Bank.

Paying it forward

Recognizing the role financial aid has played in his own journey, Gonzalez is grateful for the opportunity he has now to pay it back and make the same difference in the life of another student. For Gonzalez, even the smallest amount can make a huge impact, and he says that the knowledge that he’s helping another student earn a degree makes it all worth it.

“In the SPC, it’s about more than just giving money; you’re giving hope,” Gonzalez says. “You can make a difference. You can be that very person to say yes to a student in need.”