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May 19, 2008
Sacramento State Bulletin

Generous offer helps student scoot between job and school

photo: Michael Contreras, left, can now get to and from his job thanks to Russell Smith.
Michael Contreras, left, can now get to and from his job thanks to Russell Smith.

When a student in Sacramento State’s Guardian Scholars program suddenly found himself without transportation and a job pending, he got help from a guardian angel with a set of two wheels.

Freshman Michael Contreras, who lives in the residence halls, was driving a 1990 Chevy Silverado pickup when it was totaled in an accident, leaving him without a way to get around town. Little did he know that West Sacramento resident Russell Smith had already contacted the University with an offer that would help put Contreras back in the flow of traffic.

Smith had bought a 2006 Yamaha Vino motor scooter from a friend who had it only a short time, putting just 113 miles on the vehicle.

Smith took it off his friend’s hands with the intent of giving it to some young person in need of transportation and contacted Sacramento State. Although Sacramento State does not accept gifts of vehicles on behalf of students, director of development operations Fran Baxter-Guigli and stewardship officer Craig Perez felt it was reasonable to do a little checking around for a student who might fit Smith’s criteria.

They brought the matter to officials with Guardian Scholars, the program that helps former foster children through college, and they knew just who needed it most.

“Losing his truck was devastating for Michael,” says Guardian Scholars director Joy Salvetti. And Smith’s offer came in the nick of time. “The day we told Michael about the scooter, he found out he was hired,” Salvetti says.

Contreras works at the Department of General Services in Natomas, so some type of transportation was needed for him to get back and forth. “It was a real nice gesture,” Contreras says of Smith’s gift to him.

Too many young people are held back from getting a college education, Smith says, and he wanted to change that. “All you have to do is help one kid out and then all the generations after that are helped out,” he says.

And, with gas costing more than $4 a gallon, it doesn’t hurt that the scooter gets about 80 miles to the gallon. “It’s perfect,” Contreras says.

For more information on Guardian Scholars, call 278-2603, or visit

About the writer:
Sacramento State’s Craig Koscho can be reached at


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