That Camron Sanders walked across the stage to claim his diploma in June 2015 might have surprised some who knew his circumstances: Early in Camron’s senior year at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth, he was homeless.
But this is a young man who perseveres and whose commitment to build a better life for himself wouldn’t let family challenges stand in his way. Already a student in his high school’s esteemed culinary program, he began working for local chefs to earn money to rent a room. He rode his bike from his rented space — it was just big enough to provide him space to sleep — to school and work. His bike was stolen, but he pushed ahead anyway.
Sanders’ dream of studying at a top culinary university looked possible when he was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America, but financial limitations prohibited him from being able to afford the opportunity. Even so, Camron’s work ethic and his gracious disposition, combined with his belief that success was attainable, naturally pulled people onto his team. Among those is his Trimble Tech culinary program advisor, who urged him to apply for a scholarship from the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Foundation. Accomplished in academics, as well as in impressive school organizations, Camron was an ideal choice for a FWFWF scholarship.
His background, his dedication to accomplishment, his survival spirit and the groundswell of support from Trimble Tech faculty and employers won over the scholarship committee. It’s the FWFWF’s goal to assist remarkable young people who show focus and tenacity, and Camron more than meets the requirements. Anonymous donors who heard his story — which NBC5’s Deborah Ferguson broadcast the day after the scholarship was awarded in June 2015 — began contributing plane tickets, a laptop, a chef’s knife set, clothes and dorm room provisions, among many generous gifts.
Friendships have been forged, and Camron writes letters home to members of the FWFWF from his CIA dorm in Hyde Park, NY, on a regular basis. He is thriving at one of the world’s finest culinary schools, and the FWFWF members celebrate the strong bonds of cooperation and benevolence within Fort Worth’s culinary community.
A 2015 graduate of North Side High School in Fort Worth, Xavier is a young man who focused on overcoming difficulty at an early age. Refusing to be deterred by troubles in his family’s home, he remembers telling himself as a grade-schooler never to let “obstacles define me or my character….I knew I must pursue higher education to flourish and achieve my goals.” Xavier found himself fascinated with food by the time he was in the fourth grade. He began carrying around a food diary that he still treasures. Learning first by watching food programming on TV, Xavier pushed himself deeper into culinary studies in his high school’s vigorous curriculum. He began competing in regional and state competitions and became the president of his Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization. While working on his culinary studies, he also served as vice-president of the student council; president of United Voices 4 Change; district chairman on Student Education Advisory Council; and was fully involved in varsity choir and orchestra for four years. Meanwhile, he traveled to Japan on a student exchange trip, for which he won a scholarship, and was coached to present a TED talk on the topic of disrespect. Xavier was also a finalist for the Youth Advocate of the Year Award/Texas. Throughout his senior year, he held a part-time job at Chipotle, as well.
Graduating in the top ten percent of his class, Xavier had an impressive pick of universities to attend — and he chose the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. His winning resume earned the admiration of the FWFWF scholarship panel, as did his commitment to his culinary studies. After he completes his CIA degree, Xavier wants to return to Fort Worth to work as a chef while also giving opportunity to deserving youth who also want to rise above their circumstances. “I want to impact their lives and give them the tools and training they need for success.”
A few weeks into his first semester at CIA, he shared some thoughts:
“It’s breathtaking just thinking about how far I have come from Fort Worth, Texas and now I’m living the life and making my dreams a reality. I’m still getting used to finding my way around this extravagant campus near the Hudson River. I plan to become a team leader in my Culinary Fundamentals class and Become an RA. Thank you Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation for investing in my endeavor to succeed. It would not be possible for me to be here without your gracious assistance. You seen something in me and that pushes me forward everyday. Before it was dream but now it is my reality made fruition! “
As classmates now at the CIA in New York, Camron and Xavier let us know how much they’re enjoying the significant experiences coming their way. Between the rigorous studies, they have the chance to meet greatness: Over Alumni Weekend, they spent time in class with Maneet Chauhan, celebrity chef and Chopped! judge, someone they both said was inspiring.
FOOD + WINE FOUNDATION
The Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival benefits the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Among the Festival’s missions is that of giving back to the community by raising funds for local grant programs and culinary scholarships.
To date, the FWFWF has awarded over $60,000 in scholarships to deserving students from Fort Worth. The scholarship committee seeks applicants from the Fort Worth area who have demonstrated commitment, character and need, and the committee asks that those awarded scholarships return to work in the Fort Worth culinary community for two years, if possible, upon graduation.