Over the past 10 years, more than 200 UNLV students have logged nearly 45,000 hours of community service at two dozen local non-profits. Impactful numbers for sure. What’s even more impressive? They’re all a part of a single program.
UNLV’s Engelstad Scholars – the largest active scholarship program on campus – marked its 10th anniversary Nov.8 with a morning of service events throughout Southern Nevada followed by a recognition ceremony on campus. The program was established in 2009 by The Engelstad Foundation as part of a $12.6 million endowment to UNLV. The gift isn’t just the largest active scholarship at UNLV; it’s also the biggest in the history of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
UNLV undergraduates from more than 40 Southern Nevada high schools have been awarded the scholarship over the past decade, which includes $5,000 each year to students who maintain their eligibility. As part of the scholarship, students complete 100 hours of community service annually with a partner nonprofit organization.
“This program, made possible by the generosity of the Engelstad Foundation and trustee Kris Engelstad McGarry, has made a profound impact at UNLV and in our community over the past decade,” said UNLV President Marta Meana. “The program’s motto ‘scholarship, leadership, and service’ has grown into a deeply held set of values for Engelstad Scholars, and it has revealed career pathways that they may not have otherwise seen.”
That’s true for Robert Vargas, '17 BS Biology, a former Engelstad Scholar and current UNLV School of Medicine student.
“I liked the regimen of the program,” said Vargas, who as an Engelstad Scholar volunteered with Project 150, which provides clothes, school supplies, and hygiene products to homeless high school students. “I remember listening to (foundation trustee) Kris Engelstad McGarry telling us in the beginning, and she always says this, that we should pay it forward. Volunteering solidified my desire to help others. It’s part of who I am.”
In addition to the service component, students engage in peer mentoring throughout their time in the program. Students progress from mentees to mentors, earning valuable leadership skills they carry with them beyond their time on campus.
"The Engelstad Scholars Program is more than just the wonderful opportunities it provides our scholars; it is defined by the community of compassionate and driven students, collaborative nonprofit partners, and supportive university staff members,” said program coordinator Leanne Soter. “It is a collective brought together through a desire to create a positive impact in the Vegas valley."