SRJC student cooks up a “SO-CO STRONG” effort

courtesy of Anamaria Morales
Anamaria Morales displaying her "SO-CO STRONG" hat.

Michael Barnes, Co-Features Editor

Anamaria Morales is a busy woman. The 19-year-old, full-time SRJC student is a math tutor to seventh and eighth graders and an assistant women’s soccer coach for Healdsburg High school. And she somehow manages to find the time to run her own business, moonlighting as a homemade cheesecake baker for hire called “College Confectionista.”

Morales’ schedule is about to get busier.

Like so many others in Sonoma County, the Healdsburg native felt the urge to help victims of the North Bay Wildfires. The culinary sweetheart cooked up a unique idea to raise funds for a group near and dear to her heart: the SRJC Latino community.

Morales designed baseball caps displaying the words “SO-CO STRONG.”

“First I thought of a sticker, but everyone is doing stickers. Then I thought of a shirt but shirts are overdone these days, so I thought of a hat because hats are unisex.”

“SO-CO STRONG” isn’t the only inscription featured on the hats. Morales went a step further and paid a visit to fire departments in Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cal-Fire stations to have those who fought the wildfires to sweeten-up the creation with personalized, finishing touches.

“I’m having firefighters sign all the hats,” Morales said. Some of the firefighters decided to put their engine numbers in addition to their signatures.

“I think it’s cool that they’re putting their engine numbers on it, because a specific engine number could have saved your home,” she said.

Healdsburg Fire Marshall Linda Collister believes this addition will help the hats stand out from the previous fundraising merchandise. “You see all the other stuff and it doesn’t have that personal touch on it. We had two engine companies that responded and so they signed.”

The signatures of Healdsburg Firefighters Captain Mack Montanye, Captain Gerald Williams and firefighter Blake Ratto are particularly notable, due to the commendations they received from the city of Santa Rosa for preventing a Fountaingrove building from burning down. The building had an estimated 100 residents inside who were unable to be evacuated during the blaze.

“A lot of us teach at the campus in Windsor as adjunct instructors in public safety and assist with the academy’s new recruits. What Morales is doing for the SRJC community is phenomenal,” Collister said.

The Santa Rosa Fire Department had three new cadets assigned to the wildfires, all recent graduates of the SRJC fire academy.

All of the proceeds raised from the $25 hats will go towards the creation of scholarships for SRJC’s Latino student, staff and faculty member population affected by the fires.

“I’m hoping I can open people’s eyes to the struggles undocumented and minority groups have to go through,” Morales said.

Due to their status, undocumented wildfire victims are limited in the amount of support and relief they are eligible for. In response, a coalition of immigrant service providers launched UndocuFund as a source of monetary aid to be made available for Sonoma and Napa Counties’ undocumented communities.

Morales plans to have the scholarships accessible through the SRJC website and made available in Spanish to allow for non-native English speakers to apply. She estimates that her initial run of 100 hats will soon sell-out, “I’ve had people contacting me from all the way from Florida and as far as Australia saying they want to order hats.”

Morales plans to submit a larger order for more hats once the initial batch of 100 run out, which shouldn’t be long at this rate. In addition to the hats, Morales is inundated with holiday orders for her savory cheesecakes. “I just had a woman call me and place an order for 40.”

The December offerings are: peppermint bark, spiced eggnog, New York style and sugar cookie. She began the cheesecake business as a senior in high school. The personal endeavor was a way for Morales to pay for college. The “College Confectionista” service is something Morales hopes to turn into a non-profit in the future.

“Imagine Girl Scout cookies gone cheesecake, where other low-income minorities can use it to pay their way through college also,” she said.

Although “College Confectionista” is a booming business for Morales, she has no plans to pursue a culinary career.

“I’m studying to get my business administration major,” Morales said.

The 19-year-old plans to join the SRJC Student Government Assembly in the upcoming spring semester.

With so much on her plate, these four things are crucial for the ambitious Morales, “You need to listen to self-help audiobooks, wake up early, meditate for 30 minutes a day and exercise your brain and your body.”

For more information on how to purchase “SO-CO STRONG” hats or homemade cheesecakes, you can reach Anamaria Morales on her facebook page.

Additional reporting by Jose Gonzalez and Matthew Wreden.