UTPA and Telcel partner to connect students with families, studies
Posted: 12/11/2012
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Seventy-five international students from The University of Texas-Pan American who have limited means will be able to keep in touch with their loved ones while they're in school, thanks to Telcel AMERICA.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and UTPA students celebrate with Telcel spokesman Joseph Ramirez and Mexican actor/singer Rafael Mercadante the gift of 75 free smartphones to UTPA students. The students also receive free service for three months.

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, UT Pan American joined Telcel AMERICA - a service provided by TracFone Wireless Inc., America's largest no-contract cell provider and a leader in the communications industry - in a grassroots initiative to offer students smartphones with three months service for free.

Through its program, called "MovilizaciĆ³n Escolar con Telcel AMERICA (Mobilizing Scholars with Telcel AMERICA)," Telcel will provide 75 Samsung Galaxy Precedent smartphones as well as three months of service that includes unlimited domestic and international calls, texting and Internet service for free.

During a news conference announcing the partnership, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen thanked Telcel AMERICA for its generous gift.

"It really is a game changer," Nelsen said.

Nelsen also encouraged the students to download the UTPA app on their phones to assist them in their studies.

"Use them to be able to stay connected with your families, and most importantly, use them to learn," Nelsen told students. "This is a different world. .. It's a world where we can actually be able to use these mobile devices to improve our studies, to improve what we learn. We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity, your hearts are in the right place."

Telcel AMERICA Spokesman Joseph Ramirez said the mobile phone company is committed to being a part of the community and helping UTPA.

"There really is no more credible institution for us with which to be associated," said Ramirez, whose father, Jose Ramirez Sr. is a trustee of The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing the University. "For us at Telcel AMERICA, it is an honor and a privilege to be here."

Students who received telephones were chosen based on their financial need, and many of the selected students received their phones at the event.

"It's awesome because sometimes, as international students, we feel like we are on the sides and now we're getting some attention right now, so it's pretty comforting to know that somebody cares about us," said Irving Gonzalez, a graduate student from San Fernando in Tamaulipas who is studying computer science. "I'm never in touch with my mother during finals and other times, so now I can call her."

Gaston Herbert, a graduate student from Reynosa who is studying engineering management, agreed that international students sometimes feel isolated because it is difficult to keep in touch with their families.

"Basically, family is the backbone of everything," Herbert said. "Many times you feel like an outsider. It's really cool to be in touch with my family, know they're good and everything is great for you."

Aura Delatorre, a senior from Oxaca, Mexico majoring in psychology, said the international calling will allow her to keep in contact with her many relatives in Mexico. She also said it would help her in keeping up academically. "We have Blackboard and Bronc Mail and we (students) have a lot of use of those for our classes," she said.

After the telephones were given to students, those in attendance were treated to a performance by Mexican actor, singer, TV host and radio DJ Rafael Mercadante. Mercadante also serves as a celebrity spokesman for Telcel.

To learn more about helping The University of Texas-Pan American, contact the Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.