Orlando, Florida. Celebrating the achievements of 30 students by contributing to their future. Community members gathered at a Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund lunch in Orlando on Wednesday.
Over the course of 20 years, the program has awarded 403 scholarships, totaling more than $1.9 million, to more than 330 students, according to the HHSFM website.
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At this year’s Rosen Shingle Creek Resort event, more than $133,500 was awarded to this year’s recipients, all of whom are Hispanic and currently enrolled in local post-secondary schools.
Among the attendees were the founder and board of directors of the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund, as well as the recipients and sponsors of this year’s grants, which are funded by donations from community members and businesses.
“I really see how the Hispanic community comes together to create positive change and help others achieve their dreams,” said Maria Laura Carrillo Anez.
Carilo Anez is a student at Valencia College, and he dreams of becoming a dentist. She said the Hispanic Heritage scholarship will help fund the education you need to get there.
Rodolfo Rodriguez Moro also took the stage to receive the scholarship during the luncheon. He studies aeronautical engineering at the University of Central Florida.
“I can stay in school and focus on my education without having to work. It reduces my shoulder a lot,” said Rodriguez Moro. “Growing up, I didn’t know many other Hispanics who knew about these opportunities. I’m glad I discovered this opportunity.”
Most of the recipients are the first in their families to go to college.
“I feel hopeful, I see the future and the extraordinary thing about our society is that they are visionaries. They also see it and take action,” said Lisette Vallarino, founder of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.
The nonprofit organization originated from the Orange County Hispanic Heritage Celebration Commission, an employee group whose main focus is Hispanic Heritage Month.
Vallarino served under several Orange County mayors as a liaison with the Hispanic community. She founded a scholarship fund focused on degrees in STEM fields, supporting Latinx students in the diverse Orange County community.
A volunteer committee selects recipients based on character, community involvement, leadership, financial need, and field of study, with an emphasis on those who demonstrate an interest in STEM. Among the recipients in 2021, 67% focused on pursuing degrees in STEM fields.
“This group represents the next generation of Hispanic leaders in Central Florida, and we are proud to invest in their education,” said Elisha Gonzalez, President of the Scholarship Fund and Vice President of Government Affairs and Community Relations at FAIRWINDS Credit Union. “We are grateful to our community leaders, individual donors and corporate partners who have joined us to celebrate the impact of these individuals who will continue to make an impact in our local economy.”
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