Announced at the “40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40” Event
Glendale Community College students Robert Moreno and Wendy Respardo, both 20 years old, each received a $2,000 scholarship at the sixth annual “40 Hispanic leaders Under 40” event, held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in October, 2012. The event honors talented Latino leaders across Arizona. Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, in partnership with event sponsors, awarded the scholarships.
Robert is pursuing an Associate of Arts (AA) degree and a certificate of communication competence in the workplace. Wendy is pursuing an Associate of Science (AS) degree.
Both grew up in Glendale, Arizona, and attended Glendale High School. Wendy’s parents did not have opportunities to finish high school; both dropped out midway and joined the work force. Nor did Robert’s parents have much college experience.
Perhaps this explains why their families value education so highly. “They view education as one of the most important treasurers in life. They’ve always pushed my sister and me to work hard and to keep motivated,” said Wendy. Robert has promised his parents and himself that he will be the first in his family to graduate college.
For these students, the proximity of GCC, as well as its affordability, were important factors in enrolling. They also appreciate the individual attention professors can provide because of smaller class sizes. Both Wendy and Robert were surprised and deeply appreciative of the scholarships, noting that there are many other leaders and deserving Hispanic students at GCC.
Their achievements are not without personal struggle and sacrifice. A major concern Robert faced when he started at GCC was his speech impediment. At first, he says, he was very shy and tended to keep everything to himself. Gradually, though, his confidence grew. “Since becoming part of Phi Theta Kappa and Associated Student Government I have learned to overcome my fear of speaking to others and can say that I have found my voice,” he reflected. Hard work eventually propelled Robert to leadership positions in both Phi Theta Kappa and Associated Student Government. Wendy also cited opportunities for students to become leaders and to develop their own identity through participation in clubs and other activities. “At GCC, every student is welcome,” she noted.
Coming from a single parent household was a challenge for Wendy. Her mother, a part-time worker in the housekeeping industry, is the sole financial support for her household. “It’s difficult for my mom because she’s not only funding my education, but also funding my younger sister’s education,” said Wendy. “I address this struggle on a daily basis; I try my best on everything I do. I see this as a way of slowly paying my mom back for all her sacrifices,” she continued.
The scholarship lightens a significant economic burden. It also represents achievement: hours of hard work are finally paying off. Best of all, Wendy says, it has helped her to concentrate – to focus less on economic challenges, and more on preparing for her future career.
Both recipients credit many people for supporting them in their journeys at GCC. “Pam Hall and Connie Greenwell have given me many opportunities to help develop my own identity and become the person I am today,” said Robert. He added that Scott Schulz has also strengthened his career experiences and has offered tools for future career success.
Wendy also credits Connie Greenwell, her Associated Student Government advisor. “She’s opened many opportunities for me – but most importantly, she believes in the things I do,” said Wendy. In addition, Wendy recognized David Miller, the MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) advisor. “He reminds me about the beauty of my culture and pushes me to lead by example,” she said. She also acknowledged the help offered by Dr. Jim Reed.
After completing at GCC, Robert plans to attend Northern Arizona University. He loves to speak and help others, and he’s not going to let a speech impediment get in his way. Education is very important to him and he wants to be able to help others by becoming a college teacher. Wendy envisions a future pharmacy career, a natural outgrowth of interest sparked by her high-school chemistry class and many hours of community service she’s done. She’s looking at attending Midwestern University in Glendale after GCC. Another option is to move to Seattle to attend Washington State University.
Both offer words of wisdom for others who are considering pursuing their educations. “Success is not easy to gain; it takes hard work and determination,” noted Robert. “You may struggle at times, but it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed.” Wendy added, “Don’t let anything or anyone discourage you from pursuing a higher education, because everything is possible. Si se puede!”
“I want to thank Glendale Community College for helping me become a leader on this campus. Coming here is one of the best educational choices I have ever made,” said Robert.
“The 40 Under 40 scholarship was a true blessing and an amazing experience. I’d like to thank Valle del Sol for sponsoring me, Ms. Greenwell for the opportunity and my family for the ongoing motivation,” said Wendy.
For more information see the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation‘s efforts to assist students with financial aid.