Alexia Jauregui is the first in her family to attend college. The University of Texas-Pan American student said she plans to become a pharmacist and she encourages her younger brother to follow in her academic footsteps.
Like so many other young high school graduates, Jauregui's dreams of pursuing a degree nearly came to an end because of the huge financial burden it would put on her family. She was heartbroken at the idea that she would have to work 40 hours a week to pay for school.
That was, until, she found a company willing to support her and give her a chance at success.
The Chemistry major was relieved to learn she received funding to pay for her college expenses through the recently established Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship program.
"I am so grateful for Coca-Cola investing in my future success," Jauregui said. "I know I am not just a number at UTPA, everyone involved with this scholarship truly cares. Their support makes me so proud to call myself a Bronc."
Jauregui's scholarship was the result of a $500,000 grant The Coca-Cola Foundation awarded UTPA last June to support recipients who are the first in their immediate families to go to college. The scholarship is renewable for four years and offers up to $6,000 per recipient each year. To qualify students must have a 3.0 GPA and maintain good standing, among other requirements.
Since its inception, The Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship program has awarded more than $23 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students attending approximately 450 campuses nationwide.
Andres Gonzales - a psychology major, pre-med student and scholarship recipient - is confident that with the help and support of The Coca-Cola Foundation and UTPA, he will one day achieve his goal of serving the Rio Grande Valley community as a psychiatrist.
"Along with the generous support of Coca-Cola, UTPA has been instrumental in guiding me, committing their support and mentorship throughout my journey," Gonzales said.
Dr. Kenneth Buckman, associate provost for UTPA's Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, who was also a first-generation student, feels a deep connection to the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship recipients.
"UTPA is devoted to finding innovative ways to engage the Coca-Cola scholarship students. We want to keep them in school, retain them, and provide the support they need so they can graduate on time and go on to achieve their goals," said Buckman.
Dr. Salvador Contreras, associate professor of business and finance at UTPA and director of the Coca-Cola scholarship program, said this initiative pairs recent Coca-Cola scholars with past and future scholarship recipients, as well as with retired faculty members, to provide a support system for them.
UTPA alumni Luis Rivera (BS '72), who is Coca-Cola's vice-president of sales operations for the San Antonio and Austin areas, said he feels particularly proud to represent Coca-Cola and serve his alma mater and the community where he grew up.
"Being engaged with UTPA on behalf of the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship is such an honor. As a first-generation student 38 years ago, I feel a personal connection to this collaboration," Rivera said.
Rivera said he is confident this opportunity will inspire the students to one day serve their own communities.
"This scholarship does not just have monetary value," Rivera said. "The value is truly the opportunity for the community to inspire one another to succeed."
For more information about the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship or other Coca-Cola Foundation charitable contributions visit the foundation's website or, for application inquires, contact The University of Texas-Pan American Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning at (956) 665-3146 or visit the office's website.