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The Compassion Connection
This is part of the In UNLV We Trust series. These stories explore the reasons donors give to UNLV and the direct impact they have on the beneficiaries of their gifts.
When Arturo Montes was a child, his family moved to Las Vegas from East L.A. to find jobs. “We were as poor as you can get in America before we moved here,” he says. “We really had no food.”
In Las Vegas, his parents got service industry jobs — in fact, his dad got two and worked 80 hours per week and his mother worked full time.
“I thought my parents were superheroes,” he says. But when he was 18, his mom had a heart attack. “It was devastating,” Montes says. “I went to the hospital and she was flat-lining.”
He watched as the ER team went to work on her and the cardiologist “brought her back to life.”
“Right then, I thought, 'I want to be a doctor.' It was amazing. I wanted to help people.”
Montes started community college while working as a porter at the Riviera. Two years in, he transferred to UNLV.
“At UNLV, you become a part of a community; you meet people and you stay with them. I was loving school.” He’d been a football player in high school, a volunteer youth flag-football coach at his community center, and he joined the men’s rugby team at UNLV. “Sports have always played a central part in my life. I learned so much from sports that applies to the rest of life — accountability, working hard, and how to bounce back from a hard loss.”
Montes graduated with dual majors in kinesiology and biology and began applying to medical schools. Although he applied widely, the new UNLV School of Medicine was his first choice.
“I love this city more than I can put into words,” he says. “I want to give back to this community, and I want to help the most vulnerable people.”
It seemed like fate, then, that Montes received a full scholarship to UNLV School of Medicine paid for by longtime Las Vegan and community leader Randy Garcia, ’77 BSBA, who shares that pride in Las Vegas.
“I try to help at-risk youth dream bigger than they probably believe they can,” Garcia, founder of The Investment Counsel Company of Nevada, said. “I grew up in the old part of Las Vegas, and it was a little dicey. I think mentoring young people to rise beyond their circumstances is what puts the biggest smile on my face.”
Not long after Montes and Garcia met, Montes invited his new benefactor and mentor to a celebration at his parents’ home – complete with mariachis, all of his local relatives, and even his grandmother who came in from Guadalajara.
“It was very moving,” Garcia says. “When Arturo’s mother hugged me, I almost cried. She would not let go. She was so happy that Arturo was going to medical school.”
Montes says, “I thank him not only for the scholarship, but for his mentorship…
“We share the dream of making Las Vegas an even better place.”
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