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CHANGING THE WORLD What your investment in UT makes possible As recently as the 1980s, the state of Texas provided about half of UT Austin’s budget. Now, with state support funding only 12 percent, one area where that difference is made up is in increased tuition and fees. With college becoming ever more expensive, philanthropic support is instrumental in creating opportunities for students like me to pursue their dreams. I can’t fund an entire scholarship right now, but I can let students know that I believe in them. My small contribution to UT’s annual 40 Hours for the Forty Acres campaign this past spring joined those of more than 2,400 other donors, resulting in nearly $400,000 to benefit programs all over campus. There are many such opportunities for Texas Exes to pay it forward.

IT’S NOT JUST MONEY How scholarships have helped me to excel and grow. By Eduardo Belalcazar

F Above and right: Scholar-

ships have made it possible for Eduardo Belalcazar to thrive at UT and abroad. The Houston native spent a semester each in Nicaragua and Brazil. Opposite: Eleventh graders take in the view on a GeoFORCE field trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park. CREDITS: Courtesy Eduardo

Belalcazar (2); Jackson School of Geosciences

56 |The

or

T exans

struggling to pay for college , a scholarship can

make all the difference. But sometimes a scholarship is about more than money; it’s a statement that others believe in you. I should know. I lived it.

Who would have thought that the youngest of seven in a family of delinquents and high school dropouts, living in poverty in South Park, one of the most underserved neighborhoods in Houston, would receive a full scholarship for a world-class education? But here I am, a senior at The University of Texas at Austin. For that reason, scholarships are dear to my heart. I know my time studying abroad—also with the help of scholarships—has helped prepare me for my future career with an international human rights organization. Thanks to the support of nonprofit organizations, I have been fortunate to travel to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Brazil, learning to live in different ways and to speak new tongues. In the process I have become a better researcher.

But none of my accomplishments on the Forty Acres, not to mention in Central and South America, would have been possible without the financial support and constant reminders from countless people that I deserved more. It was the generosity and kindness of others that forced me to start believing in myself. I want to share that hope and confidence with future generations of students, and I hope more people will step up to support scholarships, especially at public institutions. Lots of Texans are in my boat, facing financial hardships and hurdles to attending college. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, well more than half of all students seeking a higher education in Texas need some sort of financial aid.

These contributions can change lives—and again, I speak from experience. Just as I was helped by people who didn’t know me personally but wanted me to succeed, I started an online campaign and called on others to help my host sister in rural Nicaragua attend college. Public universities there are tuition free, but Reyna’s family can’t afford the many other expenses she will encounter in pursuit of her education. All she needs to cover five years of college is $2,500, and we’re closing in on that goal. What starts here changes the world. As far back as I can remember, the adversity I’ve faced has challenged me to reach for a better future. As a person of color and the son of immigrants, I have had days when I felt out of place and undeserving. That is an unfortunate side effect in a society that tells us our differences are weaknesses. Then there are days when there are no words to describe how grateful I am. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school, much less college. The amazing thing about attending a top-tier university like UT is that it encourages all voices to be heard. Scholarships made it possible for my voice to be heard. I am grateful that there are people who believe in me so much that I have been able to accomplish more than I thought possible. Now it’s my turn to believe in someone else. Belalcazar is a senior in international relations and global studies.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PIPELINE

E

very Longhorn knows there are at least a million reasons to support UT. So it was a natural fit when the university joined with ExxonMobil to challenge the company’s employees and retirees to reach the $1 million mark in earned matching funds for a single year. The campaign, dubbed A Million Horns, surpassed its goal in 2012 when individual donations drew a matching gift of $1.2 million, the largest amount the ExxonMobil Foundation awarded to any university that year and its largest yet to UT at the time. The amounts have grown steadily since. The 2015 match, announced in May, reached a new high of nearly $1.5 million.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than helping young people achieve their full potential.” “Our employees care about education and make it an investment priority year after year,” says ExxonMobil Foundation President Suzanne McCarron, who has a son on campus majoring in economics. “We’re proud that we have such a long and solid record in supporting The University of Texas.” In addition to matching its employees’ and retirees’ donations, the Texas-based oil and gas giant has demonstrated its commitment to improving U.S. math and science education—and ensuring a strong supply of potential future employees—by contributing to the Women in Engineering Program and others at the Cockrell School that increase opportunity.

Likewise, the company was a founding donor for GeoFORCE Texas, an innovative outreach program in the Jackson School of Geosciences. GeoFORCE is a collaboration among UT faculty and research scientists, K-12 educators, and professional geologists. It takes high school students from disadvantaged areas in Houston and rural Southwest Texas on field trips to geologically significant sites, showing them a world far removed from their everyday environment. Now in its 10th year, GeoFORCE has been a robust success, serving more than 1,500 students so far, with 96 percent going on to college and 16 percent majoring in geoscience. In March, President Barack Obama singled out the program, which has also been replicated in Alaska, with an award for helping underrepresented populations find a path to college and increasing their numbers in the scientific workforce. With ExxonMobil’s support, the Jackson School was able this summer to launch a pilot offshoot in Texas called STEMFORCE. It seeks to expand on GeoFORCE’s success in mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers—in this case at underserved middle schools in Austin and Dallas—and getting them into the pipeline for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. “There is nothing more fulfilling for an educator than helping young people achieve their full academic and personal potential,” says Jackson School Dean Sharon Mosher. “GeoFORCE is a wonderful example of a program doing just that.” Learn more about GeoFORCE Texas and how to support it at jsg.utexas. edu/geoforce.

Changing the World is produced by the University Development Office. Please send your feedback and suggestions to editor Jamey Smith at jjsmith@austin.utexas.edu. For more news and information about giving to UT, visit giving.utexas.edu.

s e p t e m b e r | o c t o b e r 2011

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Changing the World - Jul-Aug 2015  

Featured in The Alcalde, Jul/Aug 2015

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