April 28, 2004 — In 1977, third-year University of Utah law student Andrew A. Valdez was married, had a child and was working full-time-the graveyard shift at the Salt Lake County Jail-to make ends meet. Although he had taken out student loans, he didn’t have enough money to pay tuition for his last semester of law school. That spring Valdez, a student activist, received a University Chicano Scholarship Award-about $500 at the time, which allowed him to finish law school and “put money down on the Bar exam.” Valdez is now a Third District Juvenile Court Judge.
Twenty-nine years later the Chicano Scholarship Awards are still helping students initiate and further their college training to become tomorrow’s leaders. On Friday, May 14, the Chicano Scholarship Fund will disperse 11 scholarships to new Chicano freshmen, transfer and current University undergraduate and graduate students at the Annual Chicano Scholarship Banquet, to be held in the Ballroom of the University of Utah Olpin Union Building. A social hour will be held from 6 until 7 p.m., with the banquet beginning at 7 p.m. Cost to attend is $35 per person or $300 per table of eight. Tickets may be purchased online at www.sa.utah.edu/chicano, or by calling 801-581-5206 or 801-969-7714. Tickets must be purchased by May 7. Donations to the Chicano Scholarship Fund may also be made online at www.sa.utah.edu/chicano or by calling 1-800-716-0377.
The $1,000 scholarships are awarded to high school seniors and other college students who promote the cultural pride and advancement of the Chicano/a/Latina/o community. Recipients are selected on the basis of family background, life challenges, scholastic effort, involvement in the Chicana/o/Latino/a community and financial need. This year, for the first time, one of last year’s recipient’s scholarship was renewed.
Valdez notes: “Receiving the Chicano Scholarship was not only helpful financially, but was an honor because of its name-Chicano. Back then the term ‘Chicano’ referred to Hispanics born in the U.S.A., but now, when I speak to kids, I tell them that it doesn’t matter what we’re called-we all have the same Mestizo blood in us. What is important is our background and what our future is going to be.”
Manuel Romero, chair of the Chicano Scholarship Fund, says the Chicano Scholarships assist students financially and recognize them for their commitment to social justice and involvement in school and the community. Named after key community leaders, the scholarships honor Chicanos that, according to Romero, “made the scholarships possible and opened doors for these students.”
This year’s high school recipients, winners of the Gonzalez Family Award, are Alberto Polanco, Brenda Juarez, Elizabeth Torres and Itziar Garcia. Undergraduate recipients are: Joel Arvizo (Club de Mujeres Latinas Award), Daniel Cairo (Zion’s Bank Award), Pablo Garcia (Viola Tovar Award) and Katherine Rubalcava (Rey Florez Memorial Award). Graduate student recipients are: Melissa Moreno (Ernesto Gonzales Memorial Award), N. Sabrina Morales (Helen and Nick Papanikolas Award) and Luz Maria Robles (Pete Suazo “Commitment to Community” Memorial Award).