Angel Investors help colleagues spread their wings
Posted: 08/13/2012
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While I don't consider myself an angel, I like the title of "investor."

And as an investor, I appreciate the idea that my investment is in people and ensuring them a better future for themselves, their families and the community.

Angel Investor Gail Fagan (left), public affairs representative, Office of Public Affairs is pictured with Cynthia Garza, administrative assistant in the Guerra Honors Program, who is a current UTPA student and one of this year's Angel Investor Scholarship recipients. Learn more about how to become an Angel Investor or to apply to be a scholarship recipient by calling 956) 665-5301.
It was only last year when I decided to make an investment in my colleagues through the Angel Investor Scholarship Program at The University of Texas-Pan American. The scholarship program is funded by UTPA faculty and staff to financially assist UTPA staff members who are also students here nearing completion of their degrees.

I learned then for as low as $5 per month through payroll deduction, I could provide help for expenses not covered through UTPA's Employee Educational Benefit Program - expenses like lab fees, books, child care - all those costs outside tuition that can really add up.

The amount I give each month isn't much, but what it goes toward is significant - helping many of my co-workers, who are among the hardest-working, most dedicated people I know, to achieve a college education.

Co-workers - we spend as much time with them as our own spouses, partners, and children. We work on teams together, we chat in the cafeteria, we gather at convocations or ball games. We learn about each other's familias - the births of children and the deaths of beloved relatives. We rejoice proudly together at our University's and students' accomplishments and, yes, we gripe about new procedures, the length of meetings and who is parking in our reserved spots.

We learn to care about one another, what each one wants to achieve in life and often, the obstacles that impede that journey.

Despite the lack of opportunities so prevalent in the past and the roadblocks of family responsibilities and financial capacity, I am amazed daily at the persistence of people here to get that education that "no one can take away." For some, it can take years, but they do it, some advancing from undergraduate studies to advanced degrees while working full time here.

People here, in what our President calls "the Magic Valley," just don't give up.

I admire that tenacity so much; why wouldn't I want to help someone like Cynthia Garza, one of five recipients of this year's Angel Investors Scholarships?

Currently an administrative assistant for the Guerra Honors Program, Cynthia started her degree in 1984 after graduating from Donna High School. A mother of four - ages 17, 14, 13 and 10 - she said she had to stop and come back to school many times over the years while working in a number of different campus offices during that time. Life gets in the way sometimes when you try to be a student, a mother and a full-time employee of a university that serves more than 19,000 students.

She is working full time while attending school part time, taking six hours each semester and three hours each summer session as she nears her projected graduation date in 2014 with a double major in English and history. However, money is tight, very tight.

"I am living below the poverty level," Cynthia said of her single income status with four children in the household to care for.

The scholarship has helped her to pay for textbooks and replace her almost 10-year-old computer.

When I talked to her, she didn't know I was an Angel Investor, but said she'd want to thank investors for their generosity with the hope to fill that supporting role herself in the future.

"Hopefully one day it will be me giving to the Angel Investors Program," she said.

Since its inception in 1999, 352 faculty and staff members have become Angel Investors raising $259,536 for scholarships in that time. Forty-three of those folks have been supporting the fund for all 13 years in a combined investment of nearly $82,000!

Helping to fulfill dreams - that's powerful stuff. More powerful than that latte I gave up a couple of times a month to make the donation. Its impact goes way beyond that latte's morning jolt of caffeine.

An Angel Investor's impact is a lasting and life-changing one.

Read about the dreams of some more of this year's Angel Investors scholarship recipients and the thoughts of other Angel Investors on why they support the program here.

If you would like to become an Angel Investor, join here or call (956) 665-5301.