OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — College can be expensive. Especially for first-generation college students. To support students from the metro, a local family started a scholarship fund to help students pay for college.
The Barrientos Scholarship Foundation was started in 2005.
“It is a very family-ran organization. It was started by my family. And so a lot of us are board members...we get together for dinners and see each other for the holidays and different things like that,” says Vice-President Veronica Sapp.
The scholarship is designed to help Latino students.
“The foundation was started initially to memorialize our ancestors, our grandparents, who immigrated here and just to honor them but now it's grown into offering a hand up to students whose parents may have immigrated and want to go into higher education,” adds Sapp.
The requirements for the scholarship are that students need to be enrolled from local high schools, attend a Nebraskan university, and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
“Our goal is to keep bilingual hard-working talented students here in the state. Even though our GPA requirement is 3.5, the majority of our applicants have a 4.0 GPA,” says Sapp.
One of the scholarship recipients is Erik Tena. He’s a senior at UNO studying finance and management. His goal is to work in Omaha after graduation.
“College is tough. Especially coming from a first generation so if I didn't get a scholarship like this, I'd be working or just trying to pay for it on my own,” says Tena.
Tena adds that when you’re the first in your family to attend a four-year college, saving money for college may not be a top priority or even a possibility.
He says, “It just makes it easier. It makes it so that I don't have to focus on the financial aspect of it. Now I can get an internship and really focus on my future both academically and professionally in the workforce."
Over the course of 15 years, the Barrientos Scholarship Foundation has raised over $200,000 solely off the board of directors volunteering and fundraising efforts. Nearly 75 students have benefited from the financial assistance.
“Back in 2005 and even maybe even in 2008, we were giving out $500 scholarships and we felt it was making a difference, and we still got those amazing thank-you notes and people were saying it was making a difference for them,” says Sapp. “Now it's grown to $2,500 scholarships, a four-year renewable scholarship from a very benevolent company here in Omaha, so it's grown quite a bit."
With COVID-19, a lot of the fundraising efforts have taken a pause. For people wanting to donate the scholarship, you can visit their website.