Thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, 15 students at The University of Texas-Pan American are pursuing their dream of a college degree.
More than 62,000 students nationwide were nominated for the new scholarship program, and an estimated 4,000 are receiving merit-based awards. This includes 15 UT Pan American students, with awards ranging from $4,060 to nearly $9,000 for the 2000-2001 academic year.
For 39-year-old Anna E. Nava, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from McAllen, the Gates scholarship allowed her to work on a lifelong personal goal.
"I went back to school after 20 years, and this gave me more incentive to keep on going, especially since I'm on a very tight budget," said Nava. "Getting a college degree was a lifetime goal I've had, and I've always wanted to teach, but I've never had the opportunity because I put my family first. Now it's time to reach my goals."
Twenty-year-old Heberto Valdez, a freshman police administration major from McAllen, said the Gates scholarship makes it financially possible to attend UTPA.
"It has helped pay a lot of my costs to go to school," Valdez said. "Honestly, I was very surprised to receive the award because I hadn't expected it. But I'd recommend that people apply because you never know what can happen. Just try it."
Besides Nava and Valdez, other UTPA recipients are Cynthia Cano, 19, sophomore communication disorders major, Mercedes; Samson Cantu, 21, senior biology major, Edinburg; Angela Marice Cervantes, 20, interdisciplinary studies major, Edinburg; Ariana Marlen de la Garza, 19, sophomore biology major, Mission; Maria A. Garcia, 19, sophomore kinesiology major, Roma; Maribel Luna, 20, freshman accounting major, Edinburg; and Annette Morales, 19, sophomore music major, McAllen.
Also, Serapia D. Ojeda, 41, senior interdisciplinary studies major, Mission; Estella H. Perez, 36, sophomore interdisciplinary studies major, Weslaco; Bersave Salazar, 32, senior interdisciplinary studies major, Falcon Heights, Texas; Lucia de Jesus Saldana, 23, senior physician assistant major, Pharr; Ida Trevino, 21, junior pre-dental biology major, Donna; and Maria I. Trevino, 34, senior Spanish major, McAllen.
In its inaugural year, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is a 20-year, $1 billion effort to provide financial assistance to high achieving minority students who otherwise could not attend college. It is administered by the United Negro College Fund in partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the American Indian College Fund.
"The Gates Millennium Scholars Program proved to be a very competitive scholarship nationwide; therefore, we are very proud of our 15 recipients," said Griselda C. Castilla, Student Financial Services assistant director. "Our goal was to inform and encourage as many students as possible to apply for the scholarship and take advantage of this great opportunity."
Besides financial need, applicants must have at least a 3.3 grade point average, be accepted into or enrolled in an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program, demonstrate leadership and show community involvement.
"I think this scholarship program is wonderful," Nava said. "The grade point average may be considered high, but it's more of an incentive to do well and keep moving forward. You have to stay focused on your education."
For more information on the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, contact the UTPA Scholarship Office at 956/381-2935, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Gates Millennium Web site at www.gmsp.org. Nomination materials, criteria and deadlines are available for the 2001-2002 academic year.