Frank Fuentes and Shavonna Noble make a lasting impression. Bright and aspiring, the UNLV freshmen are ready to conquer the world. Each has definite plans - first for college and then for their careers. And they're eager to hurry into the future.
They are just the kind of students the board of the Engelstad Family Foundation had in mind when it created the Engelstad Scholars' Program. Last fall the foundation pledged nearly $12.63 million to UNLV. It began this semester with a pilot group of 10 scholars. Plans call for that number to increase each fall until the program reaches its full complement of 100 recipients.
The scholars must meet grade-point and financial-need criteria, and perform 100 hours of community service each year. Scholars in the pilot class are working with the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, Boys & Girls Club, Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, and Three Square Food Bank.
Nearly Too Good to be True
Fuentes, Noble, and eight other students were selected in January to participate in the pilot phase of the new scholarship program. For Fuentes, the first person in his family to go to college, the news was huge. The $2,500 he will receive each semester makes it possible to focus on his classes without having to find a job. "I told my whole family," the freshman political science major says. "My brothers were jumping. My mom was calling the rest of our family. My dad was crying."
Noble says having her undergraduate costs covered goes a long way in helping her achieve her dream of becoming a sports medicine physician one day.
Kris Engelstad McGarry, a trustee of the Engelstad Family Foundation, noted that a scholarship made it possible for her own father to attend college. The Engelstad Scholars' Program is the result of the largest scholarship endowment pledge in the university's 52-year history.
"The Engelstad Scholars' Program highlights our investment in giving back to the community and reflects the generous contributions of those who came before us," McGarry says. "We want to help deserving students receive quality educations - especially in light of the hard economic times.
"'Scholarship' - it's a beautiful word for a lot of people."
This scholarship does come with one string attached. As a way to "pay it forward" students receiving the scholarship must help local community service agencies.
This critical component of the program "will provide students the chance to give back to the community at the same time they are receiving," McGarry says. "They will develop skills while performing jobs vital to our partner agencies. They'll be doing real work, not just logging hours."
Volunteering is nothing new for either Noble or Fuentes. Noble has volunteered at the West Las Vegas Library, at a pediatrician's office, and at a science fair. Volunteering was an important part of the service-based debutante program she participated in through Les Femmes Douze.
Fuentes, who plans to attend law school after earning his bachelor's degree, says he helped organize a variety of service projects when he was in the Navy Junior ROTC at Eldorado High School. He read to children, cleaned up schools, and helped at dog shows.
Both recently began their community service work as Engelstad Scholars. Fuentes is in charge of planning a demonstration garden for Three Square Food Bank. At the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, Noble tutors students and assists the technology team. Next she may work with the athletics staff.
Eagerness to help others is a crucial element in what makes a student an Engelstad Scholar, says William Boldt, UNLV vice president for university advancement. Good grades are not enough. "We are nurturing leaders for the future," he says. "These are students who want to be leaders, and we expect that they will 'pay it forward' during their lives."
McGarry adds, "It's neighbors helping neighbors. No matter how big this city gets, in many ways it is still a small town. We don't want to forget the value of lending our neighbor a helping hand."