Scholarships are way more than money; they’re hope

Participants in the Con Mi MADRE program that helps Hispanic girls succeed in college.

I’m a mom, as most of you know. That’s my number-one job in this world: Mom. After that comes wife, daughter, sister, aunt…. you get the picture, my family is important to me.

After family comes this job, which brings me as much joy and frustration as my primary job (see above). Part of my job is to witness and hear about things that completely overwhelm me emotionally. There are lots of people with jobs like that, and if you work at a nonprofit, you’re one of them. Oy, right? Heavy.

But how lucky are we? Today, for example, I attended a scholarship ceremony at Zavala Elementary School on East 4th Street. The scholarship honors a man who spent years reading to and mentoring students there, and who passed away a couple of years ago. He loved those kids; he loved that school.

His widow was there to witness the ceremony. This was the first time for the scholarship to make an award, and about a dozen fifth- and sixth-graders applied. They had to be on the A/B honor roll and to submit an essay. The winner would have the money invested with the Austin Community Foundation, which helped start and administers the scholarship, and she would receive the money when she was ready to go to college.

In the cozy school auditorium, the widow, her son-in-law and the teachers who chose the winner sat on kids’ cafeteria chairs on the stage. The other school children made up the audience. Just to look out at them was heartbreaking. There’s a reason I’m not a teacher and that’s because I am not strong enough to stop myself from falling in love with every single child in the school. They’re so beautiful with promise and hope, but you know these kids deal with more challenges than we’d like them to.

It was easy to spot the scholarship winner’s mother: She was the one crying. She sat in the front with another little girl, her niece, about three years old, who obviously adores her. The mom had no bag, wore shorts and a sleeveless shirt, and wore her hair in a very long braid. I noticed she had no bag because she was wiping her tears with her hand instead of a tissue from her purse. (Women notice these things. I handed her a tissue from my purse later.)

Participants in the Con Mi MADRE program that helps Hispanic girls succeed in college.

After the ceremony, she came up on stage to meet the widow, thank her, thank her daughter’s teachers. In Spanish, she told us about her older daughter who attends the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. That daughter had come home from school last week frustrated.

She’d said to her mom, “What’s the point of my working so hard if we can’t even afford for me to go to college?”

Her mom told us that at least her second daughter would have some help. That her second daughter’s hard work wouldn’t be for nothing.

There were lots of photos taken on stage, and we left. When I drove away, I saw the mother and her niece walking home.

There are lots of opportunities to help moms and daughters like this. And donations of any size help.

You can give to the Ann Richards School, a girls-only school that helps prepare economically disadvantaged girls for college. I also love Con Mi MADRE, a college prep program that provides educational and social support to Hispanic girls and their mothers. And you can also contribute to the 300+ scholarship funds at the Austin Community Foundation. Talk to Amy Allen about how.

As the principal and teachers told the scholarship winner that she was a role model for her friends, I made sure to tell the mother that she was a role model for mothers. I hope my children are as successful as hers.

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