Donna High School senior Graciela Palomo Sanchez aspires to go to college and become a physical therapist someday. She is hopeful that she will accomplish her goal, thanks to a scholarship she received from the Dell Scholars Program.
The 18-year-old worried that she would not be able to attend the school of her choice, The University of Texas at San Antonio, because of the cost involved. Her mother does not work due to health issues. Her father lives in another state and barely makes enough money as a mechanic to send back home. Right now, the family’s main source of income comes from her older brother Jose, who is employed as a concrete finisher but his salary is not much.
Fortunately, Sanchez is getting some much-needed financial help. She is being awarded a $20,000 scholarship and a laptop from the Dell Scholars Program, an initiative of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Her application was selected among the thousands that were submitted from across the country. The program gives out only 400 scholarships annually.
Sanchez is overwhelmed by the news that she learned recently while checking online. “I stayed up until midnight so I could check my email and the program’s website,” Sanchez said. “That’s when I saw my name on the list and the congratulations message. I was so excited. I wanted to cry. I wanted to tell everyone in my house but everyone was asleep.”
DHS Financial Aid and Scholarship Specialist Ada Castillo said these type of scholarships are crucial for students like Sanchez who come from low-income families. “This funding is very important for our economically disadvantaged students,” Castillo said. “A lot of them feel they’re not going to get the financial aid they need to cover the cost for their education. This scholarship is an addition to their financial aid. It helps ease their concerns and gives the students the confidence they need to continue and graduate with a degree of their choice.”
To qualify for the scholarship, students must meet the program’s GPA requirements which places greater emphasis on the applicant’s determination to succeed, rather than just academic record and test scores. According to the program’s website, students chosen for a scholarship must be in a college- readiness program and demonstrate grit, potential and ambition.
Sanchez had doubts about her application. She was not sure how detailed to get or exactly what to say, but what she wrote was impressive enough to earn her the scholarship. She spoke about her older brother Jose, and how he has always been there for her, her twin sister, mother and four siblings. She told about how he had to quit South Texas College after a couple of years because he couldn’t afford to go to school and most importantly he needed to work to support his family.
“I can’t thank him enough,” Sanchez said. “He’s always been there for me. He’s like a dad to me. He’s the one who would pick me up from the bus and walk me home. He’s the one who would help me with my homework and still tries to this day. He’s the one who would give me rides to my track meets and stay to watch me. He means the world to me.”
Sanchez pointed to her family as one of the reasons why it is so important for her to pursue a college education and ultimately a career in physical therapy. “Many of us have financial struggles but the key is to fight and get back on our feet. I want to succeed so I can be able to support my family. I want to be able to pay for my brother’s college expenses. I want to be able to buy my mother a home and everything she wants that she doesn’t have. She deserves it because she’s had a tough life raising six children. This scholarship will help make this happen.”