The University of North Georgia and the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta are teaming up for the fourth consecutive year to offer scholarships to UNG students of Mexican or Latino descent.
This year’s $5,000 grant is matched by $10,000 from UNG. It has a focus on College of Education students and is providing money for eight scholarships for 2023-24. Dr. Christian Bello Escobar, director of academic and community engagement in the College of Education, is the principal investigator for the grant.
In addition to financial support, the scholarship program weaves in elements of community service, leadership development through monthly training, and faculty and staff mentoring for the students.
“We provide different perspectives to students,” Bello Escobar said. “We want to encourage students to use the leadership skills we teach them now and after they graduate.”
The grant is funded through the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME) via the IME-BECAS Program; “becas” is the Spanish word for scholarships. UNG is one of five post-secondary institutions in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama and one of only two public schools in Georgia to be awarded the grant. Due to increased applications, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will provide funding to match or supplement the Mexican Consulate funds.
Valencia Flores, associate director for undergraduate recruitment and diversity, said students who earn the scholarship build a sense of community and push each other to excel.
“The students grow into themselves,” Flores said. “We see the peer support developing throughout the program. We want these students to know they are valued and can excel.”
This year the UNG scholarship program continues to be a collaboration between the College of Education, Enrollment Management, the Latinx faculty and staff committee, and the Multicultural Student Affairs office.
Diane Gomez, a junior from Cairo, Georgia, pursuing a degree in elementary and special education, appreciates the investment in her and other students by the Mexican Consulate and the university. A dearth of Hispanic teachers as she was growing up helped serve as her inspiration to join the field.
“That made me gravitate toward teaching because I didn’t see a lot of people like me. Even though the teachers were amazing, I didn’t have that special connection with them,” Gomez said. “It’s very important for Latinos to be in the teaching world because there are not many in South Georgia.”
Dulce Sumano, a junior who is originally from Mexico and lives in Auburn, Georgia, is also pursuing a degree in elementary and special education. She said the way teachers had a positive influence in her life drew her toward teaching.
“You can have fun with students and still teach them,” Sumano said. “I want to make a difference in their educational lives and what they become when they grow up.”
Juan Hernandez, a junior from Gainesville, Georgia, pursuing a degree in kinesiology with a concentration in health and fitness, is grateful to be part of the scholarship program.
“It will help me finish my goals of finishing my degree and going out into the workforce to apply what I learn at UNG in physical therapy,” Hernandez said.
Kevin Luna-Vaca, a junior from Athens, Georgia, who is also pursuing a degree in kinesiology with a concentration in health and fitness, aims to be a physical or occupational therapist. This scholarship keeps him on the path toward that goal.
“Finding a scholarship like this is encouraging and makes me want to stay in college. I can encourage other students in the Latinx community to go to college,” Luna-Vaca said. “I want to be in a field where I don’t see other people who look like me so others can be encouraged to join the field.”
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