Paradise students show Chico State what #ButteStrong means


First-year student Danielle Wagner attends Chico State after losing her home during the November Campfire. Photo credit: Kimberly Morales

Students all across Chico State understand the meaning behind the infamous #ButteStrong hashtag, which commemorates the victims and survivors of the tragedies that afflicted towns throughout Butte County such as Paradise, Oroville and Chico.

But beyond the phrase, the reality is that many of the students that lost everything during the Camp Fire had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to continue or even start college.

Danielle Wagner, who began attending Chico State this year, enrolled at the university despite the disaster that affected the county almost a year ago. Students such as Wagner prove that displacement does not mean drawback.

“I moved to Davis for about three months and enrolled back to Paradise High School through the eLearning Academy until I turned 18 and then moved back to Chico on my own and finished my senior year,” Wagner said.

After the Camp Fire displaced many families this past November, the CSU extended the window for students to enroll. “I came to Chico State by myself and I was walked through the application process to later find out I got in,” Wagner said.

As for the process of returning to school and beginning her newest chapter in education, Wagner found the transition to be less intimidating than she expected. “At Davis, I would wonder, ‘Why am I here, am I really sitting in this classroom when there’s so much more happening around me?’ Starting college, I feel like I’m supposed to be here. I feel like doing something with my life, starting my career, and not getting caught up on the past.”

A portion of resources Wagner received when beginning her semester included support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for her Native American heritage.

“Some of the resources included paying for my tuition and help on rent and that’s what’s really been helping me. Had it not been for those that help, I really don’t know where I’d be right now,” Wagner said.

For others affected by the Camp Fire, Chico State established the Wildcats Rise Fire Recovery Fund to raise money for students, faculty, and staff. According to Wildcats Rise Community Liaison, with over 5 thousand donors, the recovery fund has raised more than $694,000 and aided 534 students, faculty and staff.

More information on Camp Fire resources can be found on Chico State’s website.

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @kimberlymnews on Twitter.