Powerful Community Support

A large crowd turns out for the Latino Scholarship Awards ceremony at the USF School of Music.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2012) – The USF Latino Scholarship Awards Ceremony, held last week at the University of South Florida School of Music, opened with a moving tribute from Donna Parrino, now retired, to the late Jose Feliciano.  He was the husband of Patsy Feliciano, director of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity who has been at the helm during the program’s second decade.  She took over from Parrino who first headed the scholarship program. 

Jose Feliciano passed away suddenly Aug. 2.  He had been a strong supporter of the program and of education in the Tampa Bay community.

Acknowledging the loss, USF President Judy Genshaft welcomed guests noting that Patsy Feliciano wanted the event to be a successful one even though she couldn’t be there.

“We are so proud of the well over 300 students who are now USF and Latino Scholarship alumni who serve our community as professionals in fields such as education, nursing, medicine, law, engineering and accounting,” said Genshaft.

This year, 16 students from the Latino Scholarship program graduated from USF.

“Many are pursuing graduate degrees,” Genshaft pointed out with pride. “Four are pursuing graduate degrees right here at USF.”

One student graduated from USF with a master’s in architecture and community design, one was admitted to the College of Medicine, another one to the master’s in rehabilitation mental health and one to the master’s in sociology programs.

There are 27 new students being awarded scholarships this year, bringing the total number of students currently receiving funding to 100.

The program can look back on outstanding accomplishments.  It has awarded approximately two million dollars in scholarship assistance to talented first generation college students. President Genshaft’s Latin Community Advisory Committee, the City of Tampa’s Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council and the USF Foundation worked to raise more than three million dollars in endowed funds which with their state match created a $4.7 million dollar fund.

Taking turns serving as emcees, several notable supporters moved the program forward.  Mayoral Chief of Staff Santiago Corrada, stood in for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Latin Community Advisory Committee Chair Maritza Rovira-Forino and committee member Lauren Valiente, Esq., listed the program’s achievements, Jose Valiente from the committee and Jackie Toledo, of Metric Constructors, a Latino Scholarship alumna and first alumni donor took over from them.  Yisel Tejeda from Univision and Latino Scholarship Alumna Anh-Kay Pizano introduced all of the scholarship recipients on hand who took to the stage to receive their certificates. 

A highlight of the program is that donors such as those from the Helios Foundation, the Sant Y’ago Education Foundation, Bright House, the Gonzmart Family from the Columbia Restaurant and others, also serve as mentors to each and every scholarship recipient.  This has been the case from the start. 

“Mentors provide guidance, encouragement and networking opportunities,” Feliciano has noted.  “I believe that just as important as funding, contact with outstanding mentors has made all the difference in the success of this program through the years.

“All of us give our all to support the students in all their interests and endeavors, and that attention to detail has created life-changing opportunities not only for our students but also for their families.”

Scholarship recipients represented a variety of nationalities and several local high schools.  Most came from Jefferson High School.  Most of the transfer students receiving scholarships came from Hillsborough Community College.  Several were the first in their families to attend college, a couple were the first in their families to graduate from high school and a couple of single parents worked hard to earn scholarships as well.

“I think the message was clear that nothing should stand in the way of college if you work hard enough,” said Joseph Anastasio, who helped organize the event in Feliciano’s absence.  As the diversity coordinator, he is familiar with many of the struggles most of the scholarship recipients have faced.  “They are a diverse group but what they all have in common is the desire to give back and be assets to their communities.”   

For more information about the Latino Scholarship, contact Joseph Anastasio and Patsy Feliciano at (813) 974- 4255.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.