University of South Florida Celebrates 25 Years of Latino Scholars

Author: Patsy Sanchez, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, USF

October 4, 2016


Twenty-five years in the making, the Latino Scholarship is proud of its many accomplishments: 

-    A 2016 cohort of 114 students who represent every college at the university;
-    450 graduates who are currently making a difference in our communities, locally, and nationally;
-    Over 1,000 donors who have contributed to the program during the last 25 years;
-    26 endowments to ensure the program’s legacy;
-    2,907,891 dollars which have been awarded since inception, AND;
-    4.8 million dollars which have been raised in endowed funds.

But the program is much more than just numbers. Donors become mentors to the students they sponsor and there lies the secret to the program’s success. Each relationship as individual as the donors and students themselves with one shared characteristic: to enhance the success of each student by providing guidance, encouragement and opportunities.

A 99% graduation rate tells the story of a program that does more than just hand over checks. It began with one student, now a physician. That same story has now been replicated time and time again. Teachers, engineers, physicians, architects, nurses and business men and woman are now part of a robust alumni that is returning to pay-it- forward. This year, Dr. Paola Sequeira, the program’s first graduate, returned for the first time to open the annual scholarship awards ceremony. A 2016 graduate, Jose Yegres, whose goal is to become a physician accompanied her at the podium. The parallel between the first student and the last student, served as a reminder of the program’s longevity and its impact over the last twenty-five years.  Other graduates, each representing various cohorts since inception, also joined to share the program’s trajectory and many milestones. 

Leading the list of many accomplishments is the program’s newest trend, graduates who are returning to give back.  Some give to grow a Latino Scholarship Alumni endowment established this year which will create scholarships in perpetuity once fully-funded.  Others are establishing their own five-year scholarships like the ones they once received.  Unquestionably, financial assistance plays an important part in student success, but when there is a face associated with that ‘help’, the commitment and the expectation to succeed grows exponentially. This partnership between sponsors, usually a company, organization or family, and the scholarship recipients has resulted in relationships that extend well-beyond college graduation. Whenever possible, students and their sponsors are matched based on the student’s major and the donor’s career. This pairing maximizes the effectiveness of the program’s mentorship component creating a ‘win-win’ situation. The program’s motto We Must Lift as We Climb captures the essence of the program …a message that has been positively received by our generous Tampa Bay community for 25 years.    

EDITOR'S NOTE: Helios Education Foundation is a supporter of the USF Latino Scholars program.

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