BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The Boulder County Latina League will celebrate 20 years of scholarships for local students becoming the first in their families to attend college this month. The organization continues to increase its impact on the community.
“Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t be here,” said Penelope Sanches, a recent recipient of the scholarship. “It feels great, it’s feels kind of crazy that I’m already halfway there.”
Sanches will be a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall majoring in Elementary Education. She received the scholarship for her first year of college and has renewed it since starting at the university. She is the first in her family to attend college. She plans to teach after graduation.
“There is still a lot of discrimination, we still have a ways to go,” said Ester Quintana Matheson, co-founder of the league.
She has remained on the board for two decades later and says their work is still necessary. The organization started as a way for professional Latinas to gather socially in the area. They soon realized the need to help young Latinas get the right resources to ensure they achieve success.
The League created a scholarship program, and Quintana Matheson decided to retire and devote her time exclusively to the cause.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Sanches remembers about applying to college in high school.
Sanches applied for the scholarship while attending Boulder High School. She also participated in Latina Achievement Support on campus, a program in partnership with the YWCA.
“You’re paving the way for your siblings,” she said. “I get to give back to the community that helped me be where I am now.”
Sanches goes back to Boulder High School at least once a week tutoring students who have similar backgrounds. She works with them on a variety of subjects. It is great practice for her as future teacher, and it encourages those students to pursue opportunities like the league’s scholarship as they apply to college.
What started as one scholarship for young girls grew to many more, encouraging students who may not consider college otherwise to complete a higher education. Ten years later, they started to include boys in their scholarships.
Applicants are usually first generation college-bound students, but the board also considers their GPA and financial need. They are also encouraging students interested in technical skills to apply.
Some of their original scholars have finished their education and are now working professionals in their respective fields. They have joined the board to help select the next group of scholars.
The organization is always looking for donations. They will celebrate their 20th anniversary at a ceremony on May 22.
“I hope that as a teacher I can be more of a social just advocate and change agent for youth,” Sanches said.