By Lezlee Gutierrez, Student Reporter
Laura Lara wakes up each morning in her residence hall anticipating the busy day she has planned for herself and the week ahead. Though she misses her parents, she is glad to have her sister with her on campus when she gets homesick.
Lara, sophomore accounting major from Tuscola, and her sister Angelica Mendoza, junior biology major from Tuscola, are both able to take classes at ACU thanks to their parents and the Hispanic Leadership Council Scholarship.
The Hispanic Leadership Council Scholarship provides $1,000 scholarships to students who show a need for the scholarship. In some cases, full scholarships are awarded to students based on their grades and work they have provided for the community.
“This scholarship is very important to us because it gives minorities the opportunity to become what we strive for,” Lara said.
Each May, many minority students will graduate high school and prepare for their life as adults. Several of these students will not be given the chance of continuing their education because they are not able to pay for their tuition.
ACU has worked with many minority-run organizations each year to offer many multicultural scholarships to minority students. Scholarships for Hispanic students include donations from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Abilene Hispanic Leadership Council and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
“It is very important for ACU to be involved with minority-run organizations in Abilene because being a Christian school, it is good to reach out to Hispanics from all Latin countries,” said Ben Gonzalez (’87), LULAC president. “This country, and more specifically Abilene, is becoming so diverse, and it is good for any school to have good ties to the different communities that are having an impact on our city because they would have a better understanding of the cultures.”
The LULAC scholarship offers $250 to $1,000 each year and has given full scholarships to students at ACU in the past. Gonzalez said it is important ACU and LULAC work together because it helps everyone to educate ACU’s minority students. It helps the economy; it helps the students stay out of trouble, and in the long run, it gives them the knowledge and power to take care of themselves, Gonzalez said. He said he understands the importance of these scholarships as well as offering organizations for minorities to be able to get involved in the community and feel welcomed.
“I was one of the very few Hispanics that attended ACU during those years,” Gonzalez said. “There was no Hispanos Unidos or any other Hispanic group to become acquainted with, and at times, I felt like I didn’t belong.”
Another scholarship is available from the Abilene Hispanic Leadership Council. This scholarship offers $1,000 per year, and full scholarships are awarded to students satisfying the criteria.
“We choose students by their experiences,” said Daniel Garcia, multicultural enrollment and marketing specialist at ACU. “We want to create a more diverse community at ACU.”
Students are ranked by their GPA, then by their submitted essay, service to their community and their final interview. Depending on the funds available for the academic year, scholarship money is distributed accordingly. Students from Hardin-Simmons University can get up to $750 per semester, and students from ACU can be awarded a full scholarship.
“On a social perspective, we are overcoming a legacy of discrimination, schools with less resources and first generation students; these things still exist in this country,” Garcia said. “We hope that the scholarships enable students to get an education and get better paying jobs, so they can in return contribute to the community and be involved in making future students reach their goals as well.”
ACU also has recently become a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities for the benefit of its students. By ACU becoming a part of this organization, current and prospective students can apply for internships and scholarships.
Gonzalez said it also is significant for ACU to keep good ties with minority-run programs because a lot of the high school students in Abilene do not have the support of their families to continue their education and they need role models.
“If we encourage students to go to college in Abilene and keep our Hispanic students here, it will be better for the city because when students move to large cities to attend college, they usually stay their after they graduate,” Gonzalez said. “Most of the time they must support themselves or help out their families and do not have a college fund waiting for them after they graduate; it is important to educate our minorities so that they can break that cycle.”
Garcia has experience finding potential minority students and said more than half of multicultural students looking for a good school will not apply for a college they think is too expensive.
“We want to show them that it can be affordable and that there are plenty of opportunities,” Garcia said.
Both Garcia and Gonzalez think it is beneficial to find ways that make education more affordable for all minorities, and especially those who live in Abilene.
“It is important for ACU to have connections with the minority community so that we can prepare students to change the world in each diverse community,” Garcia said. “We also need to challenge them and be able to interact with them, so they can be leaders in the future.”
Some of the other programs ACU also receives scholarships from include: the United Negro Fund, the Ron Brown Scholarship Program, RMHC/African-American Future Achievers and the Hispanic Heritage Youth Scholarship.
This is the 32nd year LULAC has offered the scholarship. The money always has been raised at the annual softball tournaments held in Abilene each year. They also are using money from the bingo hall they operate, so they can have more funds for the scholarships.
“It is important to give minorities knowledge so that in return they have the power to get out of poverty, get better jobs and have better living conditions,” Gonzalez said. “There are more scholarship applicants this year; and that is good because it means more Hispanics are trying to go to college.”
Lara and Mendoza will continue to work hard to finish their education and both appreciate the opportunities available to them from the various scholarships at ACU. They both have part-time jobs to help with extra expenses and agree their parents have been their inspiration to finish school.