When Brownsville resident and President of D&M Leasing Mike Hernandez III would go fishing with his father, the elder Mike would tell his son to fish where the freshwater and saltwater merge.
“That’s where the best fish are,” Hernandez recalled his father saying.
Hernandez imparted this story to the 10 Brownsville Scholars Program recipients present Thursday morning at IBC Bank located on 1600 Ruben M. Torres Sr. Blvd to illustrate a point.
“That’s what we have here (in this room): a wonderful Latino culture of family values and loyalty to friends … (combined) with core Aggie values rooted in a rich history of farming and military,” Hernandez said.
Mixed together, they will create one heck of a fishing hole, Hernandez said.
The Brownsville Scholars Program, in partnership with the Texas A&M Foundation, helps first-generation students to make higher education more affordable and accessible to an underrepresented region in Texas.
Hernandez and his wife, Kelly, donated $1,070,000 to make the program a reality.
Each of the 10 students was given a laptop and will receive $4,500 per year for the next four years.
They also will become part of a living/learning community at TexasA&MUniversity, receive up to $4,000 in stipends to participate in academic enrichment experiences, be connected to internships and attend A&M’s fish camp at no cost.
“We are handing you a baton to take and go run as fast as you can until you can pass it on when you’re successful,” Hernandez said to the recipients.
Tyson Voelkel, the president of the Texas A&M Foundation, said he was envious of the new students as they begin the best chapter of their life.
Chad Wootton, the Texas A&M associate vice president for external affairs, said the university was committed to a student’s success — the fact that approximately 25 percent of its undergraduates are first-generation is proof of that.
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, spoke on the importance of pushing for education in Texas. All it takes is a single donor to lead by example, he said.
“It makes a huge direct impact on these students. … Indirectly, it sets a bar for others to follow, and I personally have been motivated to contribute,” Lucio said. “And I know others will do the same.”
Luis Barbosa, who plans to major in sports management and minor in business administration, said the scholarship will allow him to focus more on his education instead of worrying about funds.
Barbosa wants to return to the Rio GrandeValley after graduation to show his parents the final outcome of their parenting, he said.
“Seeing (my dad’s) work to get us to where (my sister and I) are now has been my greatest motivation,” Barbosa said.
Alma Sauceda, who plans to major in biomedical science, felt humbled by the faith the university had in her and her peers.
“They’ve shown us that us being here is much bigger than we might have thought,” Sauceda said.