HIGHLANDS – Monday night was the Rotary Club Annual Scholarship Banquet, held at the San Jacinto Community Center.
Receiving scholarships were 17 students, who attended along with their families. The scholarships totaled $30,500 and these funds were a result of the Chili Feast held each February. Scholarships were in the amount of $1500 except for four special awards named for individuals as memorials. These were $2500 apiece.
The keynote speaker was Richard Cantu, a candidate for Harris County Board of Education. He is also the president-elect of the Aldine Education Foundation, which awards over $60,000 in educational support; and he is assistant executive director of the East Aldine Management District. Cantu also is a board member or affiliated with over two dozen other public service organizations, many of them supportive of educational opportunities.
His keynote talk centered on a personal journey, from an ordinary students at Jeff Davis High School, including “running with a bad crowd,” to learning to accept a challenge and eventually ending up student body president. He said much of that revelation came about when he was awarded a small $400 scholarship by a teacher that recognized his potential. His turnabout was because he realized that “someone believed in me” and he told the students that he believed the them, as did the Rotary Club giving them scholarships.
Cantu soon knew that his future was in Public Service, and he told the story about winning the Truman Scholarship in spite of an unlikely application and experience. This award, in 1992, was the beginning of his interest and career in Public Service.
Cantu went on to work for the City of Houston Recreation Department, resolving a gang situation in one of their parks by organizing a neighborhood with support resources.
Cantu was a leader for the city in recovering from the Tropical Storm Allison with its floods.
Since 2008 he has worked for the East Aldine District, which has a $10,000,000 budget yearly, and brings Quality of Life improvements through upgrades of municipal services, educational support, and public safety. the District is currently building a $100 million Town Center with a college, a County Emergency Call Center, retail, offices and recreation, and a community service organization, the BakerRipley organization.
Cantu told the students that he learned that Education leads to success, and if you challenge yourself you will achieve your goals. At the same time, be yourself and let your journey be your motivation to “take it to the next level.”
Rotarians Dr. Larry White and Diana Weaver the proceeded to award the scholarships, and each student was asked to say a few words about their accomplishments and goals.
White said that there were 17 scholarships, but 56 students had applied. A committee of 10 Rotarians read 3000 pages of applications to evaluate the submissions.
Special Awards were made in memory of Pat McPhee, W.L. Herndon, Jay E. Bird, and R.L. Creel.
Students who received scholarships were from Goose Creek Memorial, Crosby, Chinquapin, Sterling, Impact EC, Atascocita and one college students.
At the end of the evening, students, families and Rotarians were invited to speak about what this event had meant to them. Several expressed their appreciation of the support and that they would not have had the opportunity for college otherwise. One student told Cantu that his own life paralleled that of Cantu, and gave him hope for his future.