Dawn LaBonte and Emerlinda Castillejo get up every morning excited to serve. LaBonte, senior vice president for community relations and senior manager, and Castillejo, vice president / community relations consultant, have been sharing their commitment and passion around community service as part of the Wells Fargo Social Responsibility Group for more than 20 years.
Part of their roles, says LaBonte, is “to help students, team members, and volunteers find their inner philanthropist.”
“We help people connect with empathy and provide them opportunities to see the world through another lens,” she says.
“Once that lens expands, each of us sees our place in humanity differently and with a deeper compassion. It enables us to more fully serve our customers, our nonprofits, our communities, and ideally, the world.”
“And if we’re doing our jobs right, we’re helping to create the next generation of philanthropists,” adds Castillejo.
At UNLV, this vision is being realized through the Wells Fargo First Generation Scholarship program, started nearly two decades ago to promote academic achievement for low- and moderate-income students and families. The scholarship requires that recipients perform 40 hours of community service each semester.
“Everyone should do it,” Wells Fargo Scholar Nicole Trujillo reflects.
“Volunteering at Three Square and the Shade Tree women’s shelter made me realize that my needs are very different from other people’s needs. It gives me a much different perspective.”
Trujillo was born in Las Vegas and raised by a mom who works in housekeeping at a Strip resort. After graduating with AP honors from East Career Technical Academy, she enrolled at UNLV unsure of where her educational journey would lead, but with a conviction that she wanted to help people.
She thought that meant a career in social services, but getting a job as an usher at Caesars Colosseum proved to be an epiphany.
“I realized that helping others is central to hospitality,” she says. “I never would have realized that had it not been for UNLV.” She is now a junior in the Harrah College of Hospitality. “People spend their hard-earned money to come to Las Vegas. I feel that my job is to help exceed their expectations. I want to give back to the community.”
“Because of the Wells Fargo Scholarship, I can see graduation in my future. I’ll have a degree from one of the best hospitality programs in the nation. It is so rewarding for me, and a big deal for my family.”
Learn more about UNLV Foundation giving programs.