Many of the students who have received a portion of the the $136,000 in education scholarships awarded by the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas are first generation college students.
They often have to work to pay for their education upfront, since they’re not eligible for federal loans — except for what’s funded by scholarship programs.
“We have a couple of students we’ve had come through that will work a semester and take a year off to work and then do that to pay back loans for that semester,” said Ashlie Denton, development officer for the HWOA.
Many will begin with a two-year degree for trades like auto mechanic, nursing and other health-related fields, and later go on to complete a four-year program. Denton said the students they help also go on to be educators, computer programmers and construction managers.
Because of this, HWOA works with Northwest Technical Institute to offer a matching donation to all of their scholarship recipients, and has received a donation of $10,000 from Tyson Foods, Inc. for specific fields of training like food safety and education.
For each recipient, HWOA tries to offer between $500 and $1,500 along with the chance to be exposed to the various institutions of higher education, Hispanic culture, and places like Little Rock and Washington DC to learn about advocating for their causes through legislation.
They do this through programs like Ballet Folklorico, along with after-school gym programs, parenting and language acquisition classes for Spanish speakers and education on voter registration rights.
Overall, they have an average of 20 students per youth program, and the education they receive is integral to helping them plan their own future, Denton said.
The 14th Annual Cinco De Mayo Festival is set for Saturday at the Jones Center in Springdale will help fund these programs, and offer a unique experience and look into Hispanic and Latino culture.
“The Cinco de Mayo Festival is an excellent opportunity for community interaction and a celebration of culture and education,” said Margarita Solorzano, executive director of HWOA. “It also brings the community together in support of higher education for Latino students.”
The event will showcase the Ballet Folklorico dancers along with food, vendors and children’s activities. It’s a family-friendly event with local performers showcasing diverse talents. Proceeds benefit the HWOA Scholarship Fund.
HWOA is a member-based organization that holds annual meetings concerning social issues surrounding the Latino citizens in NWA.
For more information, visit www.hwoa.org.