Latino Scholarship Awards 2013

Impressive community support funds 100 current students and aided 352 alumni.



By Barbara Melendez

     USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2013) – Attorney Stacy Ortiz was one of many examples who stood out at the 22nd Annual Latino Scholarship Awards held last Thursday evening in the USF School of Music Concert Hall. A USF alumna and former Latino Scholarship awardee, Ortiz began sponsoring her first student this year. She gave the Latino Scholarship program's motto, “Lifting as we climb,” added significance as she joined Jackie Toledo to become the second USF graduate to become a scholarship sponsor.


“Our graduates are becoming part of the community of successful people who help our scholars reach new heights,” said Patsy Feliciano, director of both the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Latino Scholarship program. “We fully expect to see this trend continue and grow.”


2013 Latino Scholarship Awards Recipients


Learn more about the lives and accomplishments of the recipients of the 2013 Latino Scholarship Awards.


Read 2013 Latino Scholarship Awards Recipients

Ortiz explained what it meant to her to be sponsored by Braulio Alonso, chairman emeritus of the USF Latin Community Advisory Committee, and his wife.


“As a former recipient, I remember how much I relied upon Braulio and Adelfa Alonso's generosity each year, and so thankful that people in this wonderful Tampa community wanted to help me – a stranger. However, soon after meeting the Alonsos, I truly felt like they were an extension of my family. So my involvement with the program now is to honor them, as well as my parents, who are the backbone of my success.”


Both Ortiz and Toledo know that sponsors do more than write a check they become mentors as well. Sponsors look forward to being paired with their students to provide guidance, encouragement and networking opportunities. The latest cohort of scholars is 40 strong. They are adding their names to become part of the list of 100 students currently enrolled.


“The guidance our sponsor/mentors provide is priceless and I think, in many ways even more valuable than the dollars, to take nothing away from how much the money lessens the financial burden,” said Feliciano. “Those relationships are treasured by both the students and the mentors for a lifetime.”


The annual Latino Scholarship Awards Ceremony attracts a large and enthusiastic audience each year made up of sponsors, donors, families and elected officials.


The program unfolded with greetings from Latino Scholarship recipient Manuel Abreu; USF President Judy Genshaft; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Latino Community Advisory Committee Chair Maritza Rovira-Forino; committee member, USF alumnus and scholarship donor Jose Valiente; Columbia Restaurant President and USF Foundation Board member Richard Gonzmart; and Feliciano. They were followed by CNN's Latino Tampa Bay anchor, Sarykarmen Rivera, who is a USF Alumna and Ortiz.


One of the most moving moments each year is when the newest scholarship recipients are introduced with their sponsors. By the time all 40 were introduced, an overall picture of talent, determination and achievement became clear.


Collectively they endured hardships, illness, separations from family and more to earn outstanding GPAs and places on honor rolls. Several had mastered not two but three languages. Two were entering college from high school with associate's degrees; some were the first in their families to graduate from high school, and at least one held down a full-time job. Together they are headed to careers in the law, medicine, human resources, pharmacy, marine biology, optometry, psychiatry, dentistry, psychology, engineering, accounting, music, teaching, business public health and the military.


Approximately $2.5 million has been awarded to students who are the first in their families to attend college. More than $4.7 million has been raised in endowed funds, including matching funds from the State of Florida, which will continue to generate scholarships in perpetuity. This year a total of $200,000 in scholarships was awarded.


A group of 35 students graduated in May, many of whom will continue on to pursue graduate degrees. There are now 352 alumni now working as professionals in fields such as education, nursing, medicine, law, engineering and accounting.


Feliciano was also pleased to announce a few recent accomplishments of previous scholarship recipients: Dr. Daniel Matta from the Class of 2009 began his residency at Bayfront Medical Center in family medicine; Yosvel Blanco, Class of 2010, participated in the University of Florida's College of Dentistry White Coat Ceremony; and Raciel Perez, Class of 2010, passed the Bar exam.


Now retired, Donna Parrino, who served as the program's first director, has witnessed the program grow from just one student and an awards ceremony that started at the Columbia Restaurant. The ceremony now fills nearly every seat in USF's School of Music Concert Hall. Looking out at the crowd she was happy to say, "It is very gratifying to see how USF has institutionalized this program, begun modestly by our Latin Community Advisory Committee with one scholarship, 22 years ago. It is also rewarding to see how the community has embraced it as well, helping it to grow so that more and more students can achieve el sueño Americano – the American Dream."


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