When President Obama won the Nobel Prize in late 2009, he donated his $1.4 million winnings to 10 different charities. Frank Alvarez, CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, knew just what to do with the $125,000 his organization got.
The fund decided to divide the money into 24 $5,000 scholarships for Hispanic students studying STEM-related fields. Award winners would also have shown an interest in giving back to the community and becoming STEM teachers.
Alvarez says he thinks the scholarship is appropriate, given Obama's emphasis on improving Hispanic achievement and hiring 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next 10 years.
"We wanted to put into place some of what Mr. Obama had been saying about the importance of having students study STEM-related topics," Alvarez says.
Today, the organization announced the 12 winners of this year's award. They are college juniors such as Jesus-Mario Luevano Jr.,, studying molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, who says he wants to close the healthcare quality gap between rich people and poor people in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.
"I saw the discrepancies between big hospitals and the second ward with HMO clinics that just try to keep people healthy enough to leave," he says. Things are slowly changing in El Paso, he says, and he wants to be a part of it. "They've built a new medical school; they're trying to build a new children's hospital; they're trying to establish a new idea of border medicine."
Other awardees want to become principals, English as a second language biology teachers, and engineering teachers.
Alvarez says that by spreading the president's funds out over two years, the organization has had time to establish partners to continue the scholarship in the future. He says the Hispanic Scholarship Fund hopes to continue the scholarship in the future with funds from Teach for America.
He says the awards help push the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Generation First Degree initiative—a plan to get at least one college degree into each Hispanic household.
"It's the seed we want to plant," he says. "As soon as there's a degree in the household, things like applying to college, financial aid, etc., become known because students have an imbedded mentor."
Here's a list of winners, from the organization's press release: