I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples. – Mother Teresa
When I think of the Fiesta Scholarship Fund, I’ve always thought of ripples. How many scholarship awards have we made and how many lives have we possibly impacted? It’s hard to know the ripple effect of these past 18 years but sometimes we get a glimpse into this and that makes me so grateful that Fiesta got started 18 years ago.
This year, Fiesta was able to award $10,000 in scholarships to 8 Hispanic students. And this was during a global pandemic! It was great to be able to make these awards and to meet these students this past weekend at a special dinner. For me, this is the best part of why we have Fiesta every year. My friend and fellow Fiesta board member, Lui Fernandez, also gets so excited about these awards. I love that he is on the scholarship committee and shares his passion at these events.
After we had our #30 Days of Fiesta celebration in September and October, in lieu of a live event in Linn Park in Birmingham, we ended with the announcement of the Fiesta scholarship recipients. Our committee chairs, Lui and Phil Sandoval were to make that announcement on October 15th during a Facebook Live event. We were scheduled to go live at 6 p.m. but Phil had a last-minute conflict and couldn’t make it so it ended up being me and Lui making the announcement. We also had a problem getting the Fiesta logo to pop up on a large television screen where we had planned to make the announcement. What a struggle! We ended up moving from a conference room at GoPro Events to one of their offices. I watched as Lui, our event Manager Denise Koch, and board members, Silvia Espinosa Laxson and Vanessa Vargas pulled together a backdrop for me and Lui to present in front of in a matter of minutes!
We ended up going live at 6:30 that night and alternated announcing the scholarship recipients along with their major, school and a quote from their applications. It was so exciting to be a part of that and I loved watching Lui during this presentation. He was clearly on cloud 9! Later we looked at the comments from the Facebook live and it was so sweet and exciting to see how many people tuned in and how many parents commented saying things like “that’s my daughter.” It makes all the work and effort we put into Fiesta worth every minute of it.
On Sunday, November 15th, the Fiesta board was able to meet the students and make the check presentations to each of them. Once again, Lui and I worked together and made the awards presentation and reveled in meeting the students and hearing their stories. In fact, we asked each of the students to share a little bit about themselves as we waited for our dinner to arrive. Their stories had me on the brink of tears. So much gratitude to parents who had worked so hard to get them to this place and so much gratitude to Fiesta for making the awards. One of the students had been encouraged by her teacher to apply and she was adamant about her filling out the application. This teacher turned out to be Charity Jackson, former Carver High School Spanish teacher who also served as the Fiesta volunteer coordinator for two years! I honestly did not know that so it was such a full circle moment for me. Two of the students have a HICA connection. One volunteered there and another is currently employed there and was encourage by a staff member to apply. When I sat down to speak to her she said to me – “you look familiar to me.” That’s when I found out more about her story and told her she probably saw me at some point during last year’s tamale sale! Another recipient spoke of the sacrifices of his father who came to this country from Venezuela and learned English at the University of Alabama. He paved the way for his son to have a better life in the US and this young man recognized that, announced it to everyone gathered at the dinner and said, “I’m going to go you one better.” Loved so much how he recognized his father’s sacrifices for him.
The final full circle moment came from one of the scholarship recipients that I know. A young lady who has volunteered for Fiesta over the years and volunteers in the Latino community. She was the one who made the comment that “I believe in the ripple effect…to be kind and helpful, especially in my Latino community.” To hear one of the scholarship winners talk about the ripple effect brought everything full circle for me this year. It was the best way to end our Fiesta celebration until we can do this all over again next year. I so look forward to adding more ripples to our scholarship story.