It was an emotional afternoon for scholarship recipients and donors who met for the first time and shared their stories of hardships and success during a luncheon held at The University of Texas-Pan American on behalf of the Cantu family.
"I got so emotional while thanking them. The more the Cantu family talked about their story, the more it reminded me of my grandparents and parents," said Alejandra Borrego, sophomore kinesiology major and scholarship recipient. "It's nice knowing that there are other people who have gone through what I am going through and are trying to help people like me."
Alonzo and Yoli Cantu, with Alonzo's mother Elida Cantu and sister Elvia Saenz, established two family endowments in memory of Hilda Cantu Garza and Guadalupe Cantu. Funds from The Hilda Cantu Garza Endowed Scholarship at the College of Education go to assist education majors, while The Guadalupe Cantu Endowed Scholarship at the College of Business Administration goes to help business majors.
The Cantu family hopes that through these scholarships they are able to change someone's quality of life. They believe there is no better way of changing the lives of future generations than through education.
"It's great hearing and seeing the students who are trying to improve themselves through education," Alonzo Cantu said. "I'm glad I got to meet them and I hope that I can see them again in the future as graduates and helping someone else."
Elida Cantu said she believes that education is the path to achievement and the goal for her children was to obtain an education, pursue a career and be successful. She feels everything her children have accomplished is a blessing. She has the same dreams for the scholarship recipients and is glad that her family has the opportunity to help students work toward their future success.
Zachary Manuel, a sophomore majoring in computer information systems and a Cantu Scholarship recipient, said it was a great experience meeting the people who are helping him and his family.
"Honestly, my family did not have enough money to pay for college, so with this scholarship I can further my education," Manuel said. "It was so great meeting the people who didn't know me, but believed enough in me to give me this money."
Manuel hopes the donor and recipient meetings will continue.
"Meeting the donors makes this scholarship more meaningful, so UTPA should continue to set these meetings up," Manuel said. "I am going to give my 100 percent and not let the people who have helped me down and I hope someday, once I am done with my education, I can set up scholarships for students and give back to my community also."
Five students were named Cantu Scholarships recipients: Alheli Gonzalez, Saul Tamez, Rebecca Velasquez and Alejandra Borrego are Guadalupe Cantu Endowed Scholars and Zachary Manuel is a Hilda Cantu Garza Endowed Scholar.
All the scholarship recipients joined UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, Janice Odom, vice president for University Advancement, Lydia Aleman, associate vice president for University Advancement, and Yvette Padilla, director of Stewardship and Annual Giving, at the luncheon held Aug. 24 with the Cantu family.
Nelsen said that scholarships coming from donors like the Cantu family show that they care for the students of South Texas and are creating a legacy of educational opportunity. He said with these funds a student's chance of bettering their life becomes a reality not just a dream.
"These scholarships mean that wonderful, giving members of our community believe in The University of Texas-Pan American to make a difference in the lives of students who want to work hard to better themselves and their families," Nelsen said. "And when donors can actually see the students they are helping, it helps them to understand how valuable a role their contribution plays in making a positive real difference in South Texas."