If it weren't for academic scholarships and financial aid, Alexis Garza said he simply could not afford to attend The University of Texas-Pan American. The studio art student earns just enough at his stained glass job in McAllen coupled with the financial assistance to go to college.
"It's a great job but it's just not enough. I would need to take up a second and even a third job to go to school if I didn't receive help," Garza said.
However, the UTPA junior is able to breathe easy and focus more on his studies, thanks to a scholarship made available by contributions from UT Pan American alumni, students and the community.
"I'd probably be in a lot of financial debt with loans if we didn't have scholarships like these," Garza said. "I'm so grateful for these scholarships."
The University launched its Count Me In! drive in 2011 to increase alumni participation. The alumni participation rate reflects the percentage of former students who make contributions to the University throughout the year.
"We are floating around the four percent mark and we'd like to finish the year off at least at five percent," said Yvette Padilla, director of stewardship and annual giving for UTPA. "When alumni give back and they help support students who are continuing their education, it encourages students because they are rewarded."
Jennifer Coello, another recent recipient of the Count Me In! scholarship, said the financial help is a welcome incentive. Coello, a junior who plans to be a nurse practitioner when she graduates, said receiving the scholarship could not have come at a better time.
"I don't get financial aid. I only qualify for academic scholarships, so this really helps my family," she said. "I am the oldest and I don't want my parents to be wasting all their money on me because they have my three siblings to worry about."
Currently enrolled Broncs, who are preparing to enter the workforce, are being asked to support the institution through a small donation.
"It's a way to encourage our seniors who are graduating to consider giving back. At graduation the seniors are asked to consider a $20 gift and that gift is included in our Count Me In! fund," Padilla said. "We're teaching our seniors about philanthropy. We are hoping that every year the fund will increase and we will be able to help more students."
Coello said she will definitely sign up to help with the scholarship drive.
"I told my mom that I want to donate to the school when I graduate," Coello said. "I think it's really good for students to give back to the school because it's people who came through Pan Am. They know exactly what we are going through. It's really great that they're giving back to the place that is giving us opportunities."
Those interested in supporting future Broncs can join the drive by Aug. 31 to be included in the 2013 fiscal year. Padilla said it is crucial for alumni to lend a hand.
"Their support helps us increase our participation rate. When the University goes out to apply for grants or funding they always ask us for our alumni participation rate. The higher it is, the more funding we can apply for or be considered for," Padilla said.
Garza said $20 may not be much to donors, but it makes a tremendous impact on students like him.
"This is so generous that they donate some of their hard earned money to students like me whom they'll probably never meet in their lives. It's pretty amazing generosity," he said.
For more information on how to make a donation, contact the Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.