Owner and President of McAllen Sports, Jorge Salcines has made it his mission to help make a difference in the lives of Rio Grande Valley youths.
Salcines has supported Valley youths through the McAllen Sports Three-Point Basketball Shootout and Book Festival every year - which benefits The University of Texas-Pan American GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) and Region One GEAR UP Scholarship Match Fund.
"The Valley has been real good to me and I'm just a firm believer of giving back," said Salcines.
The scholarships will be awarded to GEAR UP students upon graduation from high school. In the Valley, GEAR UP assists more than 16,000 students. GEAR UP helps prepare low-income students to attend and succeed in college.
Roland S. Arriola, vice president for External Affairs, said the UTPA Foundation would handle the funds for both programs. Both GEAR UP programs have been challenged by the U.S. Department of Education to raise more than $275,000 and will be matched the UTPA Foundation.
He estimates more than $4 million will be raised at the end of the five year program by the UTPA Foundation.
"Receiving this gift like this will definitely help us and put us on the road to developing major scholarships for those graduating out of high school," Arriola said. "It's a wonderful thing that McAllen Sports has done to give back to the community. We encourage other businesses to do the same because we need a lot of help to meet our goals."
Salcines, along with his wife Maria Luisa, have held this event for the past 16 years. He said the tournament attracts more than 12,000 people from all ages, including a three-year-old, the youngest to play in the tournament to a 70-year-old, the oldest individual to participate.
"This event is a united effort from everyone, and that also includes the kids," Salcines said. "The GEAR UP people are really good people to work with. They pull up their sleeves and say, 'let's go.'"
Region One Executive Director Dr. Sylvia Hatton praised and thanked Salcines for his contribution to the program and helping students achieve their higher educational goals.
"I hope that this shows the students that there are members of the community that care about you and believe in you and want you to be the best," Hatton said.
Next year, Salcines said he plans to raise $100,000 for scholarships at the annual McAllen Sports Three-Point Basketball Shootout and Book Festival set for Oct. 18.