Latino Scholarship Program Celebrates 23rd Anniversary

With 30 new incoming students, the total of Latino Scholarship recipients comes to 102 this year; alumni now number 380.

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 26, 2013) – Pride and love filled the USF College of Music Concert Hall as the Latino Scholarship Awards ceremony celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the scholarship program, with the concept of family as its theme.

A crowd of more than 500 made up of scholarship recipients, their families, scholarship donors and members of the USF community made up the audience.

First out on stage to set the tone of the evening was Latino Scholarship Program alumnus Steven Bardales who opened the program with heartfelt thanks for the support he received as he shared the news that he had just graduated from law school. He concluded with, “I still persist; I still climb; I still dream. Thanks for making my dream a reality.”

Bardales introduced USF President Judy Genshaft who spoke fondly of having never missed an awards program in her 15-year tenure. She told the incoming students that she looked forward to shaking their hands at commencement four years from now before introducing Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Noting his connection to USF through his wife, USF Health faculty member Dr. Catherine Lynch, Buckhorn praised the program and encouraged current program participants to stay and work in Tampa and continue to help those who come after them. “Stay here and help us compete,” he said, and pointing to his heart, “You now have a sacred contract, not on paper, but right here.”

The other speakers and award presenters who continued the program’s welcoming and family-focused atmosphere included: Latin Community Advisory Chair and scholarship sponsor Jose Valiente; his daughter, scholarship donor and USF Latin Community Advisory Committee member Lauren Valiente; scholarship donor and member of the USF Latin Community Advisory Committee; Office of Diversity and Inclusion Director and Latino Scholarship Program Director Patsy Feliciano; former scholarship sponsor Gil Hernandez and his son Martin Hernandez, Scholarship sponsor and former member of the Latin Community Advisory committee; USF Latino Scholarship graduates, brothers Ernesto Barnat and Jorge Soriano; and, USF alumna and Univision Reporter Sarykarmen Maldonado and Univision Vice President of Integrated Marketing Solutions Orlando Nieves.

“The program is uplifting entire families and this year, particularly, we wanted to highlight how over the years one family’s gift has fulfilled another’s dream, one by one,” said Feliciano who has been part of it for 14 years.

Over the past 23 years, the Latino Scholarship has awarded approximately $2.7 million dollars to talented students who are from the first generation in their families to attend college. More than $4.7 million dollars in endowed funds have been raised after matching funds from the State of Florida which will continue to generate scholarships in perpetuity. This year a total of $217,000 in scholarships will be awarded.

With 21 students graduating this past May, Latino Scholarship recipient alumni now number 380.

“We are so proud to have our alumni serving our community as professionals in fields such as education, nursing, medicine, law, engineering and accounting,” Feliciano said. “This year we welcome a cohort of 30 new students to USF bringing us to 102 students receiving scholarships.”

One of the hallmarks of the program is that each Latino Scholar is paired with a mentor “to provide guidance, encouragement and networking opportunities,” Feliciano said.

Nothing illustrates this better than when the names of the mentors and their mentees are called to the stage following a tradition started with the first awards ceremony.

“You see the established business person or professional and you see the young person just starting college, you hear each student’s background story and it is very moving, because you see how much each student has excelled and how much each one has overcome, Feliciano said.

“None of this would have been possible without the vision of a Latin Community Advisory Committee,” Feliciano said. The group of professionals who established the Latino Scholarship in 1992 was established by President Borkowski in 1988. “It was their vision that gave birth to this program which has from its inception focused on student success creating life-changing opportunities for our students and their families.”

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Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563