Paying it forward

Holocaust survivor donates $50,000 to college Foundation

By Joel Umanzor, Sports Editor

As Contra Costa College Foundation (CCCF) Development Officer Sara Marcellino sat in the kitchen of contributor Sam Genirberg earlier this semester, she was amazed at one of the larger offerings made to the organization in recent memory.

This $50,000 donation has been the latest large-scale donation for scholarships and the reason why the CCCF has been pushing for students to apply and take advantage of the increasing money available to pay for the cost of attending college.

Genirberg is a 93-year-old Jewish activist and resident of El Cerrito who wants to provide local with students a greater opportunity. Marcellino said after receiving an initial donation to the Foundation from Genirberg, he then contacted her by phone.

“We spoke and Sam (Genirberg) wanted to know about potentially giving a larger donation,” Marcellino said. “I went to his home, brought the college catalog and he went through it looking for what departments and programs he wanted to contribute to.”

The CCCF is a non-profit organization that has worked for decades to improve student financial needs.

The establishment of the Genirberg Family Scholarship through a $50,000 donation will be used to assist four students who meet a specified-criteria. The disbursements are to happen annually, in $2,500 increments over the next four years.

To qualify, students must be planning to continue at CCC in the fall semester, maintain a 3.0 GPA and be declared majors in automotive, culinary, biotechnology, computers & communication technology or nursing.

According to Marcellino, Genirberg had no previous connection to CCC, but wanted to help students financially and make a difference in his local community.

Genirberg immigrated to the U.S. in 1948 with his wife Rose after avoiding Nazi protection by hiding in plain sight and using a false identity while living in Germany after leaving his hometown of Dubno in Ukraine.

After reaching the U.S., the couple was able to open a chicken farm and lead successful business ventures with help from the Hebrew Free Loan Office.

He wants to provide students with the same kind of opportunities that helped establish his roots in this country.

Marcellino said his children did not attend CCC and his only tie to the institution is that he lives in its service area.

In a statement released by the Foundation on the college website, Genirberg said he hopes to help students “reach their next educational and professional level.”

Scholarships like this and smaller awards have become increasingly available to students at CCC.

Business professor Joe DeTorres said he tries to remind his students during his classes to actively look for aid and services provided on campus.

DeTorres said, “I know that in my classes I try to point out to students, who may or may not know about scholarships, that there is money available.”

Professors such as DeTorres are some of the various resources that students have available to them to find scholarship and other financial assistance.

Students looking to assess scholarship qualification requirements should check the CCCF scholarships website at for deadlines and awards that may apply.

According to the website, there were over 50 scholarships totaling over $90,000 exclusively in the last academic year for students who attend CCC with numbers expected to increase in the coming year.

Marcellino said there is more than enough money available for students and all it takes is dedication to fill out the information.

Freshman Deborah Damaris, who is yet to declare a major, said knowing what scholarships are for majors that may interest her is a factor when potentially choosing which to apply for later on.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I will be majoring in at the moment, but when looking at what I might be interested in, applying for a scholarship to help pay for my school bills is an attractive thing,” Damaris said.

Students, like Damaris, are more likely to apply for financial scholarships when they are aware of the application process.

Each year, much of the scholarship money is left unclaimed.

Damaris said, “I feel as if students aren’t aware of the scholarships available and that not as many of us know what to do to apply.

However, with the increase in the amount of money out there it’s something worth looking into.”.