Exceeding Expectations Kickoff!

As some of you may know, one of the many connections that Hillary and I share is our birthday: June 13th! I came out to San Diego this year to celebrate with her in person and we’ve spent part of our day kicking off our fundraising project for 2017.

I first heard about Exceeding Expectations through Hillary when a few years ago she was able to fund Nik Keller’s last two years of college at UC San Diego. He became the first in his family to graduate college–with a degree in biomedical engineering no less!

Exceeding Expectations (EE) is a non-profit foundation for at-risk kids in San Bernardino, California, founded seventeen years ago by triathlete Cherie Gruenfeld (if you don’t know who she is I do suggest a quick google investigation–one of our heroes in triathlon and LIFE). I’ve copied a full background on Exceeding Expectations for you below to read more about this amazing foundation.

This year Cherie came to Hillary asking especially for help with another one of her Exceeding Expectations kids. Hillary and I decided to take this on as a 2017 project and are so excited to introduce you to our scholarship recipient, John Alvarez!

“John Alvarez is attending California Baptist University, a private Christian liberal arts university located in Riverside, California. He started as a freshman in September 2016.

John has been with Exceeding Expectations for around ten years. He comes from a family with two caring parents, both of whom work very hard to make a good life for their kids, but were unable to even think about the possibility of college.

When John and his siblings became involved with EE, he recognized the opportunity and has focused on college and a career since that time. He doesn’t party too hard unlike many of his peers. Although, he has never asked, “where can I get a fake ID?” I do suspect he has one for the occasional celebration! He’s completing his freshman year and has done very well. He’s majoring in Business, specifically oriented towards the construction business where his plan is to build his own company.

John has two younger siblings and there are two other related Alvarez families close by and of similar means with kids of school age. So there are currently 6 other Alvarez kids who participate in EE and are proudly watching John lead the way.

Last fall I [Cherie] called John’s home to speak with him. One of his younger sisters answered the phone and told me John wasn’t home. When I asked her if she knew where he was, her reply was: “John’s at college!”

So this effort is not just for John but for his siblings who will be see that higher education is possible because of the opportunity we can help provide for him.”

John’s Annual Educational Financial Information:


Tuition $35,000

Books $ 1,200

Total $36,200

Financial Aid:

Fasfa $22,200

Talbert Grant $ 5,000

Total John is responsible for annually: $9000

Our goal: $27,000 to complete the total needed for John to graduate.


Hillary and I wanted to involve our TeamHPB athletes in this project (whether they liked it or not 😉 ) because they are the ones who continue to inspire us on a daily basis. We’ve been looking at some fundraising ideas for sports teams to see the kinds of things we can do to help out. Our team has always been a direct link to communities all over the world. We know that they are out there leading in their neighborhoods and setting positive examples for kids not only through triathlon, but also in their careers, and well, life. That is what Exceeding Expectations is all about. Therefore we are donating $50 from each of our athletes Q3 payments directly towards our EE fundraising efforts. That means we are kicking off today with over $2,300 to get us started!

If you would like to help us in these efforts, please make a donation to the Alvarez Education Fund via Exceeding Expectations (501C3 tax-deductible) here. Just make a note that the donation is for the Alvarez Education fund. Any issues with this link you can just go to the EEfoundation.org homepage and scroll down to the “Donations welcome here” link and do the same.

More on Exceeding Expectations…..

Exceeding Expectations (EE) is a non-profit foundation for at-risk kids in San Bernardino, California, founded seventeen years ago by triathlete Cherie Gruenfeld.

These kids, through a chance of birth, are very different from you and me.

The EE kids suffer the abuse of low expectations. Their environment is one where people simply try to survive, one day at a time. There’s neither time nor the means to consider making a better life and, if they have expectations for the kids, it’s that their lives will just be more of the same. Our belief is that the ticket to breaking out of this environment is education. When we started the program with twelve kids, not a single one had anyone in their family whhad graduated from high school. In the words of Nicholas, one of our original twelve kids: “College is for other kids, not for us.”

We believe that participation in sports has the great benefit of teaching skills that will be used throughout life. Personal athletic achievement leads to building self-confidence and recognizing that there are fewer limits if one is willing to stay focused and work hard. Exceeding Expectations marries these two beliefs, using the sport of triathlon as the vehicle to accomplish our primary goal of getting the kids educated.

Today every EE kid believes firmly that college is for them, not just for other kids, because they’ve watched it happen.

We have eight EE kids currently in college and four more entering as freshman next September. These twelve are following in the footsteps of fellow EE teammates Nik Keller (UCSD ’14), Marlene Samano (UCSD ’16) and Louisa Patterson (Berkeley ’16). We also have two team members with distinguished military careers: Edgar Samano, who is a U.S. Marine drill instructor at Perris Island, and Jose Lopez, who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan as a radio specialist.

Every EE kid has heard me say: Your job is to graduate from high school and get accepted into the best school for you. Our job is to make sure finances are never an issue for you. They have confidence in this promise because they’ve seen EE fulfill it over and over.

This is why fundraising has always been a critical part of our program. We want to make sure that every one of our nearly fifty kids, now in K-12, will be heading to college as they graduate from high school. Working on that goal means that fundraising will play an even larger role going forward.

It’s important to know that every cent donated goes directly to the kids. We have no paid staff, and insurance is our only administrative expense. If you donate $200, it may go towards buying college books for Enrique. $2000 will pay a semester’s tuition for Joselyn. If you donate $20 it may buy new tubes for bike tires or some breakfast bars for race day or entry into a local 5K. From you…directly to a kid.

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

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