The scholarships and awards presented to students, educators and community members at the Hispanic Forum’s annual Scholarship Gala on Saturday are representative of the support they have, according to the leader of the organization.
After uncertainty due to the pandemic and the county vaccine hub, the all-volunteer organization put together the 23rd annual event in less than 100 days. The year has seen a record golf tournament, silent auction participation and raffle sales, Jaime Cavazos, president of the Hispanic Forum of Bryan-College Station, said.
He added that the event is the volunteers’ way of helping the future generation improve the world.
“I hope they know there’s plenty of people cheering for them,” he said of the 52 scholarship recipients who received a total of $151,000. “It’s not just their families; it’s all the communities; it’s all the people that have been part of their educational journey. They keep cheering for them to go out and do things better, make the world better, our communities better.”
Bryan Collegiate High School graduate Mark Romero, who was named the student of the year, said the $10,000 award gives him a “net” to focus on school when he attends Texas A&M at Galveston to study computer engineering and minor in computer science. He will be the first in his family to attend a university and will enter as a junior after completing his associate’s degree while at Bryan Collegiate.
“It feels like something that I worked really, really hard for,” he said, noting the ups and downs of his four years of high school and especially last year with the effects the pandemic had on school. “I feel like this is just me breaking through all that and making it out alive.”
His mom, Barbie Romero, said it is nice to know that other people see the same qualities in her son that she does. She liked that the recognition came from the Hispanic Forum also because, she said, her son has always embraced being African-American and Mexican-American.
The student applications and community nominations were reviewed by selection committees, who looked at candidates holistically and determined a recipient.
Margaret DeJesus, the organization’s educator of the year, said it is affirming to recognized for the work she enjoys.
As the compliance coordinator for the bilingual/ESL and migrant education in the Bryan school district, she said, it fuels her educator flame to continue the work she and her colleagues do in the school district.
“After a year like that, to receive such wonderful and kind recognition really speaks volumes of the community that we live in.”
Everyone in the schools throughout the community – counselors, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and maintenance staff – all work together to create the best learning environment for students, she said. This year, that has meant doing so despite the challenges they faced at home and at the schools due to the pandemic.
What the Hispanic Forum does is important, she said, to focus on education and to recognize students throughout the community rather than one district, school or future plans.
“The main thing is to continue fostering the idea that education and the gaining of knowledge is what’s really important, and I love how they do that, not just with the students, but they’re also recognizing the importance that we’re all in this together,” she said. “… So whether you have a title or you own a business, or you’re an active graduating high school student, we’re all a part of a big, giant learning community, and I think that that’s one of the things that I love the most about the Hispanic Forum is that they’re addressing the idea of positively influencing our community holistically.”
Each of the community honorees help with that positive influence, she said.
Cavazos said of the students recognized, about 80% will be first-generation college students. As a first-generation student, he said, he understands the challenges that can bring, especially financially.
His journey was helped with scholarships, and that is why he is encouraged to do the same for the future generation, he said.
He wants students to understand there is no limit to the power education can have and the value it brings to them and their families. After him, Cavazos said, his younger siblings attended college also, setting a new future for their families.
“It’s really a generational impact that we hope to create here,” he said. “… Just to be able to open that big door for them is really a blessing for us.”
For more information about supporting the Hispanic Forum of Bryan-College Station or joining the organization, visit hispanicforumbcs.org or reach out via social media.
Winners include: Person of the Year: Edward Davila; Business Owners of the Year: French Door Spa and Salon Educator of the Year: Margaret DeJesus; Lifetime Achievement Award: Tony Cruz; Student of the Year: Mark Romero.