The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) has selected nine students from HACU-member institutions to each receive a Café Bustelo® El Café del Futuro Scholarship of $5,000.
The Café Bustelo® El Café del Futuro Scholarship offered in its fourth consecutive year is part of the 2017-18 HACU Scholarship Program.
In January, the Café Bustelo brand challenged Latino students across the nation to an 800-word essay contest describing how their heritage, family, and community in which they grew up inspired them to obtain a college degree and how they plan on giving back to their respective communities.
More than 1,000 eligible entries were received and reviewed by a qualified panel of judges. The following students have been awarded for their ambition to further their education and unparalleled commitment to their communities.
The student recipients and their institutions are:
Arizona State University – Taylor Pineda
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – Marlon Gaytan Jr.
California State University, Dominguez Hills – Janel Navarro
California State University, Northridge – Rosa Maldonado
California State University, Sacramento – Maria Perez
California State University, San Marcos – Said Gonzalez
DePaul University – Rogelio Avila
The University of Texas at San Antonio – Gerardo Contreras
University of Houston – Jassmin Benitez-Guevara
Taylor Pineda (Albuquerque, N.M.): No stranger to volunteering and community involvement,
Pineda is an education student at Arizona State University with dreams of becoming an
educational policymaker. A firm believer in education’s ability to improve and empower the lives
of marginalized populations, Pineda has served on the board of the Chandler Coalition for Civil
and Human Rights and has mentored hundreds of students as a volunteer with Si Se Puede
Foundation (SSPF), coordinating a college readiness program to help prepare high school
students for college.
Jassmin Benitez-Guevara (Houston): A first-generation college student majoring in pre-medicine
at University of Houston, Benitez-Guevara spent her childhood summers in El Salvador, her
parents’ country of origin. Inspired by El Salvadorians’ appreciation of life despite their tough
economic situations, Benitez-Guevara dreams of becoming a doctor with a specialty in global
medicine and dedicating her career to caring for underserved populations within the U.S. and in
Marlon Gaytan Jr. (Daly City, Calif.): Inspired by his family’s values of self-sufficiency, ambition
and discipline—or as he coins “Guatemalan Grit”—Gaytan worked tirelessly to become an
industrial engineering student at California State Polytechnic University (CSPU). Driven by his
family’s strength, as he faced many economic limitations in pursuit of an education, Gaytan
enrolled at Skyline Community College where he coordinated 75 student body activities as the
activities commissioner of the student government. Relying on close mentors and available
academic resources, Gaytan ultimately transferred to CSPU and became a member of Lambda
Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc., in which he upholds the values of Latino empowerment and
leadership through service and academic excellence.
Rogelio Avila (Bensenville, Ill.): Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Avila left Mexico at the
age of 13 in search of better work opportunities to support his ill father. After graduating from
high school, Avila worked alongside oncologists, surgeons, internists, and nurses as a medical
assistant for over seven years, igniting his own desire to pursue a career in nursing. Following his
tenure as an assistant, Avila received the unique opportunity to conduct research at
Northwestern University, where he learned about the disparities that exist in cancer incidence in
underrepresented groups. This experience reaffirmed his interest in becoming a nurse, where
he feels he’ll be able to make the most direct impact on other peoples’ lives.
Maria Perez (Soledad, Calif.): Having grown up in a town plagued by gang violence and drugs,
Perez made an early choice to alter the course of her life for the better. Receiving assistance
from Youth Alive, a local non-profit organization located in Salinas, California, Perez realized
early on the importance of obtaining a college degree in order to give back to her community
and help others the way she was helped. With a dream of becoming a social worker and working
with at-risk youth, her hope is to not only grow underprivileged children into successful adults
but to also grow their parents into strong, reliable support systems for them.
Gerardo Contreras (Laredo, Texas): At the age of 15, Contreras left Mexico with his brother to
pursue a more promising life and career in the U.S. Facing a language barrier and difficulty
adjusting to a new culture, Contreras decided to get out of his comfort zone and become more
actively involved in English-speaking organizations such as the League of the United American
Citizens and Latinos in Science and Engineering, where he learned the importance of
collaboration and ultimately acquired English as a second language. Although he’s faced many
unique challenges and educational setbacks, Contreras remains eager to become a mechanical
engineer and motivated to share his academic knowledge with future generations of engineers.
Rosa Maldonado (Los Angeles): As a first-generation college student, Maldonado always swore
by the words of her mother, “Education is an escape from poverty.” Inspired by her father’s
experience as a refugee of the Guatemalan War, Maldonado pursued an undergraduate degree
in Chicana/o and Central American Studies, with the intent of uncovering what social and
political occurrences took place during the Guatemalan War. With the help of a close mentor,
Maldonado worked diligently to obtain a summer fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania
through the Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative. Through this experience, she hopes to become
a mentor to other disadvantaged students one day, helping them find networking opportunities
and access programs with long-term career benefits.
Janel Navarro (Hawthorne, Calif.): Navarro never dreamed of success as the daughter of two
Mexican immigrants, instead she woke up every day and worked hard at it. Although she grew
up at times homeless and without anyone to teach her English, Navarro remained focus on her
academics and chose to pursue school. Inspired by her parents’ unrelenting work ethic to thrive
in America amidst the many challenges they faced as immigrants, she is excited to further her
education in the hopes of becoming a social worker, serving as an advocate for other
immigrants living in the U.S. and helping them pursue dreams in line with their passions.
Said Gonzalez (Menifee, Calif.): Gonzalez attributes his own innate creativity and perseverance
in the face of difficulty to his two loving parents, immigrants from San Mateo el Viejo, Mexico.
Growing up, his weekends weren’t spent riding his bike or playing football in his California
neighborhood, but rather lending a helping hand to his mother and father as they juggled many
jobs. Looking back, he admires his parents for their tireless work ethic and for instilling in him
the mentality that with hard work, he can accomplish whatever his heart calls him to. Today,
Said is pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health with a dream of attending medical school and
becoming a general practitioner for underprivileged immigrant families.
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The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) represents approximately 470 colleges and
universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America and
Spain. The association’s headquarters are located in San Antonio, Texas, with government relations
offices in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, California. HACU is the only national association
representing existing and emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). Information is available at
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