Dalia de la Garza said her son, Javier "Jay" de la Garza, always had a heart for taking care of others. When he was a child, he would go into his parents' room to give them a kiss and say good night every evening, and when his mother was sick, Jay would be by her bedside with a damp cloth to put over her forehead.
"He was there, he was always that type of person," Dalia de la Garza said.
Jay de la Garza's nurturing nature led him to study rehabilitation services at The University of Texas-Pan American. He earned a bachelor's degree and planned to continue his education and earn a master's in that field, but in 2010 he was killed in Afghanistan while serving his country.
In his honor, his employer, DRS Defense Solutions LLC and Dalia de la Garza started a scholarship to benefit fellow graduate rehabilitation students.
On Aug. 8, Dalia de la Garza contributed another $5,000 to the Veteran Javier "Jay" de la Garza Memorial Scholarship for Rehabilitation Graduate Students, bringing the total endowment to more than $40,000.
"I see I'm fulfilling my son's dream through their lives," Dalia de la Garza said.
Interest earned from the endowment will provide scholarship money for graduate students in the rehabilitation services program.
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said this endowed scholarship fund will allow people who share the same passion as Jay de la Garza's for helping others pursue their goals of a career in rehabilitation services.
"The students who are in rehabilitation services are about giving back, so it seems even more appropriate because they are reaching out to help people," Nelsen said. "This donation will guarantee that the world will be a better place."
Jay de la Garza, a veteran of the Iraq war, was killed Sept. 6, 2010 while working as a civilian for DRS Defense Solutions in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan. He had served in the U.S. Army for four years as a military intelligence analyst and enrolled at UTPA after his enlistment tour was over.
Jay de la Garza earned his bachelor's degree in rehabilitative services in May 2009 and began working on his master's at UTPA that following fall. He took a hiatus from his studies after one semester to work for DRS.
"He was a very outgoing person, and, I think, one of the reasons why he wanted to study rehabilitation was because of the veterans and because of his mom," said Dalia de la Garza.
Dalia de la Garza said her hope is to have the endowment reach $100,000 so that more students can receive help in paying for their education. She plans to donate more money each year on the anniversary of her son's death.
Since the creation of the fund in February, it has received 76 donations from 73 donors, including from one alumna, Cameron Lacy Ortega, a classmate of Jay de la Garza who gave through the University's Count Me In! program that assists graduates of UTPA in donating to their alma mater.
Ortega, who earned her bachelor's in 2006 and master's in 2009 - both from UTPA - and counseled people alongside Jay de la Garza, said Jay was a good person at heart who truly cared about his coworkers and his clients.
"I can continue to help him help people," Ortega said.
Dalia de la Garza said she is grateful to DRS Defense Solutions for establishing the fund and to all the donors who have contributed to it.
For more information about contributing to the Veteran Javier "Jay" de la Garza Memorial Scholarship for Rehabilitation Graduate Students, call the UTPA Development Office at (956) 665-5301.