Recipient Bios

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Leo Morales

Leo Morales

Leo Morales graduated from Boise State University in 2005 with a Political Science degree. He currently works as the senior organizer and project director for the Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN).  ICAN is the largest grassroots organization working on social, racial, and economic justice issues in Idaho.  Leo leads state-wide efforts on comprehensive immigration reform and participates in key strategy meetings in Washington D.C. on the issue.

What did receiving a scholarship(s) mean to you?

To highlight just how crucial scholarships were in my life I offer this.  As a son of farmworkers, I could not receive direct financial support from my parents. Living on my own at the university and at the height of my involvement on a state political campaign to extend minimum wage protections to farmworkers, I was holding a part-time job but my funds were running low.  Rent, utilities, car maintenance bills and tuition were all converging, but my savings did not add up.  Put in a very tough situation, I contemplated a full time job temporarily, suspend my involvement with the state campaign as a key spokes person and put less time in my studies. All difficult choices. As my savings were down to just a few hundred dollars and with stress level at its peak, I opened an envelope from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.  My letter of congratulations and scholarship check arrived.  Twelve-hundred dollars into my bank account allowed me to continue to study, be actively involved with the state campaign and ultimately I saw the minimum wage bill become into law.

What impact did receiving a scholarship(s) have on you?  

Financial assistance, public and private, have played a pivotal role in defining who I am today.  Privileged to have received assistance I was able to pursue higher education, stress less about work while attending the university and consequently became very involved in my studies, as well as state politics of campus. Because I graduated with no school debt, I was able to choose a career path that allowed me to continue my activism without regards to a high salary.

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Lina Benavidez

Lina Benavidez

Lina Mendez is the only one in her family that has graduated from high school and attended a university.  At the Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium in 1996, as a senior from Caldwell high school she received her first scholarship to attend Boise State University.  After two years at Boise State, she became an exchange student and transferred to New Mexico State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Bilingual Education with a minor in linguistics, in 2001.As a senior in college, she was the recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.  This scholarship would pay for her masters and her doctorate degree at the college of her choice.  It was then, that Lina decided to apply for graduate school at Harvard University.  To her surprise, she was accepted.  A year later in 2002, she received her Master’s degree in Education from Harvard.  She worked as a researcher and an elementary school teacher for a year in Boston before applying to graduate school again, now with the goal of getting a Ph.D.  Lina is finishing her dissertation work at the University of California Davis while working as a research analyst.

What did receiving a scholarship(s) mean to you?

The first scholarship I ever received was for the amount of $2,000. In 1996, it was enough to cover the cost of tuition for one year at Boise State. That money paved the way for me to believe that I could attend a higher education institution. That year I received seven other local and university scholarships that paid for my room and board and allowed me to fully experience what it really means to be a college student.  My dorm experienced allowed me to participate in many campus activities and it helped me to be a part of a community.  A community that was very different than mine. Living on campus allowed me to feel as if the university was mine and that I belonged in its buildings and halls.

What impact did receiving a scholarship(s) have on you?

I could become a teacher and help shape the lives of students who didn’t speak English. I knew that the discrimination I had experienced as an English Learner should not happen to students who are smart and want to work hard at succeeding and having a better life. Because I was exposed to the cultural capital that being in a university includes, I was able to travel around the world to conferences as well as doing community service. I am now happily married with a one year old daughter, and have achieved way more than what I could have ever even imagined. Looking back, it was all because of that first scholarship that made me believe in myself and helped open the one door that would later open many.

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David Estrada

David Estrada

David Estrada was born in Caldwell, Idaho in 1977. From 1998 to 2004 he served in the United States Navy as an Electronics Warfare Technician. He achieved the rank of First Class Petty Officer in 2003 before receiving an honorable discharge and returning to Idaho to pursue his undergraduate education at Boise State University. During his time at Boise State, David held undergraduate research positions with the Power Electronics Research Group at UC Berkeley (as part of the SUPERB program) and with the Device Characterization Group at Boise State. After graduating in May of 2007 he began graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the direction of Professor Eric Pop. David received his M.S. in ECE from UIUC in August of 2009 and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Materials Research Society, the American Chemical Society, the Applied Physics Society, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. David is the recipient of the NSF, NDSEG, SURGE, and Micron Graduate Fellowships. His research interests are in the areas of physical electronics and semiconductor materials.

What did receiving a scholarship(s) mean to you?

While scholarships have always helped me financially, having my academic achievements recognized by members of my community and professionals in my field motivates me to work harder and achieve even greater success. While the significance of scholarships varies from student to student, I recognize scholarships as an investment in my future. This motivates me to give back to my community and to professional organizations, either financially or through service. Doing so will provide future scholars the same opportunities I have enjoyed.

What impact did receiving a scholarship(s) have on you?

As a non-traditional student scholarships are a vital part of my income, allowing me to support my family while pursuing my education. Earning scholarships as an undergraduate allowed me get involved in undergraduate research, lead student organizations, and focus on my academic development. Scholarships had a tremendous impact on my ability to prepare myself for graduate school. As a graduate student, scholarship and fellowship support has provided me the academic freedom to pursue research I truly enjoy, and that I believe will have a lasting impact on society.