With Thanksgiving being just around the corner, it gives me such joy to bring you a story about El Pasoans who are giving back through kindness, goodness and with the purpose of building a better tomorrow.
Earlier this week, the El Paso in Austin Network held their annual scholarship reception in Austin. Each year the organization selects three El Paso students to award a scholarship to, in order to assist them along their journey in pursuing a higher education.
In order to be considered, students can apply during a certain time frame within the year; per the website, “Ideal candidates demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and character. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and rank in top 20% of their graduating class. Financial need is also considered.”
What is most inspiring about this story, is that is began as a vision of two Latinas, founder members Linda Medina-Lopez and Yvonne Loya, graduates of Montwood and Irvin high school (respectively).
Back in 2007, both Linda and Yvonne were both officers for the UTEP Alumni Association chapter in Austin. It was during this time that they came together and felt the need to create something more.
At first, the idea was simply to have a place for El Pasoans in Austin, to come together and stay connected to the Sun City, but at the first official event they had over 100 people show up! It was clear, the excitement was there and this was going to be something much bigger.
Now, 13 years later they are still going strong. The network has expanded to include a steering committee and in 2010 they were able to create a scholarship fund in order to help El Paso students.
Transitioning from high school to college is already difficult enough, but being in a new city, often without any close family around, can really add pressure on a new student’s emotional and mental health. The El Paso in Austin Network provides much more than just financial help, it is touchstone, a little piece of home away from home.
“We are grateful to have the support of our members, partners and the community. When we come together and combine our resources bigger things happen and we’re able to inspire others and do more. We are family and we lift each other up, that’s what El Pasoans do.” – Linda Medina-Lopez, El Paso in Austin Network Co-Founder
We are excited to share with you the three notable El Paso students who were selected as this year’s 2019 scholarship recipients.
Angela Chung graduated with a 4.2 GPA in the top 5 percentile of her class from Valle Verde Early College High School. She is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin and plans to pursue a major in Neuroscience/ Pre-Medicine, with a minor in Business Administration.
At UT, she is an active member of Synapse Neuroscience Academy and Women in Medicine, a student organization that strives to foster and encourage interest in Neuroscience Research among prospective students.
After four years, she hopes to channel her knowledge and skill set by pursuing a career in the medical field as a family physician, helping to establish an exceptional healthcare system in the El Paso community.
“I will dedicate tireless hours to providing the best care for patients of all backgrounds, despite any economic inequities and give to the amazing people in my hometown. I am beyond grateful for all the support this scholarship has offered me and a community that aspires me to reach for my dreams.” – Angela Chung
Ashley Crooks graduated as the third in her class from Parkland High School with a 4.0 GPA. Crooks attends the University of Texas at Austin and continues her passion for education and service.
She is majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with an emphasis in speech pathology and is an active member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA ) which is a speech pathology-oriented organization that offers ongoing service opportunities with the Austin Speech Labs, a nonprofit that helps to rehabilitate stroke survivors.
Ashley is also a member of the Lang Stuttering Institute Student Leadership Organization (LSI SLO) a leadership organization for the stuttering research institute at UT Austin that advocates for people who stutter.
“Everyone deserves a voice to express themselves freely. I’m so grateful to El Paso in Austin for caring about my voice and giving me the opportunity to study at the best university in Texas. I can explore my potential and further my passions in the 7th best speech pathology program in the country, all because of their generosity and belief in my vision.” – Ashley Crooks
Jorge Eduardo Duran attended Cathedral High School and graduated as salutatorian of his class with a 4.67 GPA.
Eduardo was a member of “El Otro Lado”, an organization that aides with the cultural immersion of students around the nation. Students from across the country would fly out to El Paso and Eduardo – along with a few other Cathedral students – would give them a historical and cultural tour of the border.
During his years at Cathedral High School, Eduardo was dual-enrolled at El Paso Community College and received an associate’s degree in the arts.
Eduardo is now at The University of Texas at Austin where he hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Business minor, and a Computer Science certificate in May 2023. Eduardo wishes to move back to El Paso and give back in any way he can to the El Paso community.
“I wish to move back to El Paso and give back in any way that I can. I believe that with the support of the community and hard work, anything is possible for El Paso and the beautiful community that inhabits the Juárez -El Paso border.” – Jorge Eduardo Duran
To date, the El Paso in Austin Network has helped close to thirty El Paso students. These students, like many of our students, will go on to achieve great things and one day be able to give back to the community that has given them so much.
During this season of reflection and gratitude, especially following the recent tragedy in our city, let stories like this one (and the many others) continue to uplift our spirit, reminding us that we, El Pasoans, are connected no matter where we may find each other; an example of the great things that can flourish when we come together, leading with a desire to help pay it forward.
El Paso in Austin Network, a piece of our mountain star, shining brightly in Austin.