By Melody Mendoza
It didn’t seem like Joe De La Rosa would ever attain a degree after he graduated from McCollum High School and went straight into the workforce.
After attempting to take one class at Palo Alto College, he said he stopped going after just three weeks.
“I didn’t see how I was going to work the amount of hours I was working and still go to school at night, much less keep paying for all of the classes I would need to graduate,” he said.
But this all changed when he met his wife, a single mother, who worked and went to school full time, who later pushed him to go back to school.
Today, with the help of financial assistance, De La Rosa, Master of Business Administration student, is on his way to achieving a master’s degree.
De La Rosa’s story was one of three student testimonials told at the Dream Maker Scholarship luncheon Oct. 16, a formal fundraising event hosted by the Texas A&M San Antonio Foundation to honor a city dream maker and raise money for scholarships for A&M-San Antonio students.
The 18-member foundation board began the annual banquet three years ago, which is one of two large events the foundation organizes to raise scholarship funds, including a spring golf tournament, which is scheduled for March 8, 2013.
WOAI sports anchor Don Harris led the event and introduced each speaker. President Maria Hernandez Ferrier greeted members of the Alamo Colleges, councilmen of the City of San Antonio and the community and proceeded to give an update on the university’s enrollment of more than 4,000, and an overview of two new buildings — Central Academic Building and Patriot’s Casa.
This year’s Dream Maker Award was presented to Peter M. Holt, CEO and owner of the San Antonio Spurs and president and CEO of Holt Cat, the largest Caterpillar equipment dealership in the United States.
“I’m glad to be honored,” Holt said, “but more importantly, to honor me at all, please be generous.”
A resident of the South Side of San Antonio since the 1930s, Holt described the development in that area over the last decade as phenomenal.
“You can just feel the energy. You can feel the change of energy on the South Side,” he said, adding, “I think A&M-San Antonio is going to end up being the leader of that energy.”
The generosity of Holt and other prominent leaders who attended the luncheon allows the foundation to award A&M-San Antonio students the opportunity to earn a degree.
Anthony Alcoser, assistant director of development, said the foundation raised about $90,000 in 2011. Tables at this year’s luncheon ranged from $1,500 to $15,000.
“We are still in the process of receiving donations and totaling costs related to the event, however at the moment I feel confident in saying that the Foundation has surpassed last year’s total of $90,000,” he said.
Alcoser said funds that are raised by the foundation are held by the university in an account allocated to the foundation. Every semester, the foundation makes a gift to the university for scholarships.
In previous years, the foundation has transferred $30,000 to the university in both the spring and fall semesters. However, in the fall, the foundation made a gift of $140,000 in celebration of the growth and committed student success.
De La Rosa, communications senior Laura de Leon and social science senior Eva Mullen reassured donors with their testimonies of how scholarships have helped them in paying for college.
Like the 11 percent of military students who make up the student population, de Leon has returned to school upon traveling as a military spouse with her husband while he was on tour.
When they returned to San Antonio, she said she didn’t know how they’d both be able to go back to school at the same. With the help of a scholarship and student worker position as campus news editor of The Mesquite, de Leon has been able to devote her full time to her education.
“It has been my dream to pursue a degree in journalism and work in the area of public relations, and now I’m closer to my dream,” she said.
Although Mullen’s story is much different, she still shares the same gratitude for the financial assistance she has received.
At 8 years old, Mullen moved to South America with her parents who were volunteers. Although she was home schooled, she said she returned to the United States in 2004 without a high school diploma.
With little academic background, a full-time job and six children, Mullen said she felt too far behind to attempt college. But with determination, she was able to attain high GED scores and graduate from the Alamo Colleges as a distinguished graduate with three certificates.
Now at A&M-San Antonio, Mullen is pursuing a social science degree and is expected to graduate in May.
“During these years, we’ve come across many financial difficulties, but because of the generosity of donors who understand the importance of scholarships, I have been able to remain a student full time.”
Student testimonials, like De La Rosa’s, spoke of dedication in the face of hardship.
His older sister wasn’t able to graduate high school because of a pregnancy, his older half brother found himself in prison, his younger brother was able to graduate from alternative high school and his other younger brother attained a GED some years later.
Neither his mother or father are recipients of a degree but, De La Rosa said they worked hard to provide for their family.
“College wasn’t something on the radar,” he said of himself.
Some time later, he also found himself coping with the death of his mother before making the decision to try again and enroll in classes at Palo Alto.
“I thought it was important you all understand where I come from and how my life circumstances …. made it unlikely that I be here today,” he said in his speech. “I know that hard work and perseverance is rewarded, and that’s reflected in the scholarships I’ve been awarded.”
De La Rosa also said scholarships have instilled a bigger sense of community and stewardship, which has led him to consider obtaining a doctorate in educational administration.
“I think to myself …. if a single mother from the West Side can make it to the top, then why can’t I?” he said of Ferrier. “I know these are big shoes to fill but like many at my university, I have big goals.”
For more information about the foundation, making a gift or upcoming events, visit the foundation website. Another opportunity to contribute is to sponsor a tree at A&M-San Antonio. For information about cost, locations, descriptions, visit the university website or call advancement coordinator April Esquivel at 210-784-1171.
For information on scholarships, visit the university website.