MUSCATINE – Last Sunday, July 31, members of 10 different LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) councils from across Iowa gathered at Augustana College, taking the time to hand out scholarships in the hopes of helping build the futures of Latin American students.
“This was an opportunity to come together and celebrate the work that these students have been doing towards their education,” LULAC Council 371 President Nick Salazar said.
At this year’s LULAC Scholarship Banquet, 67 different students were awarded over $55,000 in scholarships. Of these students, five were selected by LULAC of Muscatine, receiving a total of $5,000 divided amongst the five. Additionally, the funds raised for each Muscatine scholarship are matched by the LULAC National Scholarship Fund.
The five students that received scholarships were Fernando Carillo, Paola Castillo Santiago, Leticia Ibarra, Jennifer Solis and Naylea Verdeniz. Carillo recently graduated from Muscatine High School and is planning to attend University of Northern Iowa while the other four recipients are all students of Muscatine Community College (MCC) and are currently part of its on-campus LULAC student group.
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Jesse Garcia, Student Advisor for MCC’s LULAC members, shared that these same four students assisted in one of this year’s earliest fundraisers, that being a community bingo night.
“A big focus of the MCC LULAC Council is to get these students to be more engaged, not just on campus but in the community, so that was an opportunity for them to do so,” Garcia said. “Obviously it’s nice to see it come back and see them benefit from those funds as the students that helped put the fundraiser on.”
“We do hold joint fundraisers with the MCC LULAC Council to help raise funds, not just for themselves but also for the next group of students that will be arriving the following year,” Salazar added.
According to Salazar, this was the third year that LULAC Muscatine has ran its scholarship program. Although the program took some time off during the pandemic, it has still seen significant growth since first starting in 2018, with each year seeing a doubling of the amount being fundraised for the scholarships.
“What we’re seeing is that there is a need to raise funds for the students, and there’s also been an increase in community engagement to make that happen,” Salazar said. “We really hope to keep this momentum going for the future.”
When it came to the importance of the program, Salazar explained that he saw it as a way to not only provide aid to students who may not otherwise have the means to afford going to college, allowing them to continue their education pursuits by removing those financial barriers, but he also saw it as a way to motivate other students to strive for higher education.
“When they’re in middle school and they see that there’s a program that has folks out in the community working towards it, it will inspire them and empower them to continue to plan their higher education path,” he continued. “The fundraising (for the scholarships) also gives the community an opportunity to come together and engage with and make a direct impact in the lives of students.”
Garcia shared that felt similarly, adding that he was glad that the scholarship recipients can focus on being engaged in both their studies and on campus now that they don’t have to worry as much about financial strains.
“From our point of view, it’s nice that we can provide them that peace of mind, so that they can focus on the things we consider to be the most important,” Garcia said. “We’re hoping to be able to do the same going forward for future students, and members of the community should know that if they ever do see one of our events going on, participating in it does affect a local student in a big way. Every dollar we raise has a profound impact on the lives of others.”