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Home for the Holidays
Southwest provides travel awards for Hispanic students.
As the first person in my family to go to college, I am fond of saying that education helps dreams come true. That is certainly the case at The University of Texas at El Paso, where I am proud to be Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Most of our students work parttime or fulltime in order to fund their college years, and many are the first in their family to pursue higher education.
Nine years ago, Southwest Airlines and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities teamed up to support Hispanic students who are pursuing a university education. They created ¡Lánzate!, a special travel award program for students in economic need who must travel away from home to attend a university. The award (up to four airline tickets generously donated by Southwest) makes it possible for recipients to travel to their university for the first time, to return home for the holidays, or to bring parents to graduation. These tickets represent “the way home” for students whose culture embodies the importance of family and time spent together.
For eight years I have had the honor of serving on the ¡Lánzate! selection committee, which is composed of educators and executives and is convened by Southwest and HACU. For one day in San Antonio, the selection committee meets to read applications from students across the country. It’s one of the best days of my year. I read phenomenal stories about people whose hard work has opened opportunities for them at all types of colleges and universities—small and large, public and private. I read stories about the power of the human spirit, all of which are testaments to the importance these Hispanic students place on getting an education to improve their lives and the lives of their families. ¡Lánzate! gives them the opportunity to get an education and still stay connected to their families.
Thank you, HACU and Southwest, for the difference you make in these students’ lives—and for the joy this program brings to mine. It’s wonderful knowing that one summer day in San Antonio has made it possible for college students across the nation to make it home to their families this holiday season.
—Patricia D. Witherspoon
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