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Regents' Former Student Stories
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I graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 2013 and a medical degree in 2017 from the College of Medicine. As I look back at my eight-year journey with Texas A&M University, the Regents’ Scholars Program stands out as being the most influential experience. The financial support played a vital role in allowing me to afford college. However, the most important thing the Regents’ Scholars Program provided was opportunity. Through the Regents’ Scholars Program, I served as a mentor in different settings, met new friends from diverse backgrounds, travelled to foreign lands, and gained new insight and perspectives. These experiences have molded me into the person I am today. I am pursuing a career in Family Medicine, and I am currently in my residency training with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. No matter where I go with my career, I will forever remember the impact the Regents’ Scholars Program had on me. It provided the framework for my growth as I transitioned from a graduating high school senior to a young professional out in the real world.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the amazing and supportive faculty involved with the Regents’ Scholars Program. They are an incredible group of individuals who are driven by sincere passion to help their students achieve their dreams. Without their committed and unwavering support, I would not have made it to where I am today. I am truly thankful for my experiences within this organization.
I am currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School. I received a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Economics from Texas A&M University (2015), where I graduated Magna Cum Laude, as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and as an Undergraduate Research Scholar. All these academic achievements were possible because of the many need and merit based scholarships I got while attending TAMU, which helped me graduate from college. The scholarship that made the greatest difference, however, was the Regents’ Scholarship. During my time in college, I would work every summer as a house painter to save money for school – even though I saved most of what I made - as an undocumented student - I would have not returned to A&M to study every year if it was not for the Regents’ Scholars Program and the financial aid they gave me.
As a low-income, first-generation college student who fell under the McKinney-Vento provisions for homeless youth when I enrolled at Texas A&M University, the Regents’ Scholarship Program greatly impacted my life. First and foremost, the scholarship component allowed me the opportunity to enroll at Texas A&M after I initially thought that I wouldn’t have enough money to attend college at all. The support that I received from the program, including mentoring and socio-emotional support, proved to be invaluable during my time in and after college. I am still in touch with my mentors from the program.
I graduated in May of 2011 with a BA in Sociology and a certificate in Race and Ethnic Relations. Motivated by my experience as a Regents’ Scholar and later as a work-study student in the financial aid office, I served with the inaugural class of the Texas A&M chapter of the College Advising Corps. In this role, I served as a college adviser for two years at Elsik High School in Houston, TX, where I worked with over 4,000 students to help positively impact the college-going culture of the high school and surrounding community.
After my tenure with the Advising Corps, I moved to New York City to complete my master's degree in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. While in graduate school, I continued to support youth through college access programs as a Zankel Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a mentoring coordinator for the Governor’s Committee on Scholastic Achievement (GCSA). Inspired by my work with students, my master's project explored the outcomes and impacts of in-state aid and tuition policy for undocumented students in Texas and New Mexico.
After graduate school, I served as a college guidance counselor for the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA)– a nonprofit that works with high-achieving, low-income students from across the country. Currently, I work in Office of the Chief of Governance, Higher Education, and Membership at the College Board and in this role I support the Governance team as well as strategic initiatives for the division. I also serve on the College Advising Corps Alumni Council.
The Regents’ Scholarship was the main reason I started attending Texas A&M University. The scholarship made college affordable for me. It was also how I met the people that truly kept me going during my time there. I made some of my closest friends through The Regents’ Scholars programs. The organizations within the program such as RSO and The Orientation Planning Board were filled with people that pushed each other to be the best, to excel academically, and to grow as leaders within our communities. Because at the end of the day, we all had a shared understanding of what it meant to be a first-generation college student. I will forever be grateful for The Regents’ Scholarship and the people within it.
I currently work for The Cell and Gene Therapy center at Baylor Medical School focused on manipulating tumor cells to make effective cancer vaccines. I am also in the process of applying for a joint MD/MPH program.
I am a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Crosby, TX, but more importantly, I am a loud and proud member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2013! That sentence, of which I’ve repeated various versions of thousands of times by now, would not have been possible if it was not for the Regents’ Scholars Program. Coming from a small town and a small family, I had always dreamed of going to college, but never knew what that meant, where I would go, what I would do. The day I received my acceptance letter from Texas A&M I was also informed I would be a Regents’ Scholar, and little did I know how much those two words would influence my time at this university. My original plan had entailed: study, make good grades, get a good job. Then I walked onto campus and into my first Regents’ meeting. There I met colleagues, mentors, and friends who have helped me in more ways than I can count, and continue to be a part of my life long after crossing the graduation stage. These people and this program pushed and enabled me to be a leader on campus, the truest version of myself, and to hone skills I never knew I had. Just looking at the organizations I joined because of this program we have: RSO, RS2, OWLS, FAC, FACE, Aggie Pals, and Regents’ Orientation Leader. I was able to take a study abroad trip, be a trip leader, pen pal with 4th graders, welcome and mentor incoming Aggies, and star in videos as my own version of Barney from How I Met Your Mother. Needless to say, I enjoyed my time and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. Since then, I have gone on to be a director of Aggie Transition Camps, complete my Master’s in Mechanical Engineering, develop my design, manufacturing, and management skills with Exosent Engineering, and take the next step in my career as a Field Service Engineer with the Eaton Corporation in San Diego, California. As I look back on where I started 8 years ago, what Texas A&M and the Aggie family has given me is beyond measure. It has opened doors which have led to great halls and I am forever thankful, because that first door read Regents’ Scholar.
The Regents’ Scholars Program is truly the fundamentally what jump started my path to success as an adult. I honestly did not see a financial road to an institution like Texas A&M University until I was introduced to the scholarship during a visit from our local prospective student center. The program not only provided an opportunity financially but also taught me leadership and professional skills that I hold invaluable to this day. Through so much peer interaction and earnest advice, the Regents’ Scholars Program fosters an environment to give back and pay it forward to prospective students. I am currently employed as a Talent Advisor for American Airlines and previously for Nestle Waters and Sherwin Williams Paint Company. My experiences as a participant, volunteer and leader in the Regents’ Scholars Program provided the opportunity for discovery of who am now and the professional I will continue to become."
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health and a minor in Spanish. My senior year of high school I was notified that I was to be a recipient of the Regents’ Scholarship, and at that moment I knew my dream of attending college was going to come true. The Regents’ program gave me the opportunity to be the first in my family to attend Texas A&M. In the Academic Success Program, Aggie Access, I was given the opportunity to travel to Paris, France, which gave me the desire to keep traveling, discovering new sights and understanding different cultures. Regents’ gave me the opportunity to keep pursuing my academic goals and extracurricular activities without the fear of wondering how I was going to make ends meet. Without Regents’ I wouldn’t have had the memories I made in my classes, MSC SCONA, MSC OPAS, Aggie Pals, and general day-to-day Aggieland. Being a part of the Regents’ program, I was given the opportunity to be part of Aggie Pals and encourage younger generations that pursuing their dreams and seeking the opportunity to keep learning was valuable. After graduation, I used my Bachelors of Science to pursue the business side of health. I worked for a spell at Maxim Healthcare Services as a healthcare recruiter. I am currently employed by a small company named Arch Care Consultants. I deal with worker’s compensation situations and assist in marketing when needed.
The beauty of the Regents’ Program was not only that it helped me achieve my goals but the diversity in the program itself was a real treasure. You automatically were introduced to a large group of kids your age from different backgrounds and different stories, but at the end of the day you all had the common thread of being the first in your family to make it into college. We all felt that pride at the end of the day and, finally, at graduation to present our parents that diploma that as a family you dreamed about. The Regents’ Scholarship Program completely changed my life and helped me achieve the goals I made for myself back when I was still a kid dreaming of one day going to a top university.
Jonathan Lerma '15, CHES, PA-S
The Regents’ Scholarship is an opportunity like no other. Not only do they act as a gatekeeper to open up greater possibilities but they also set you up for success by supporting you through your experience in a new environment. I will be forever grateful to the Regents’ Scholars program because it served as a door that allowed me to make my dream a reality. After graduating from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health, I was able to be in a position as a competitive applicant to my ultimate goal of practicing medicine. I am currently a student in the Master of Physician Assistant studies at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. I plan to work in cardiology and serve the community the raised me upon completion of this program. Gig em’ Aggies!
“Pay it forward” Those words jet started one of the most positive domino effects in my life. The Regents’ Scholar Program presents all of its recipients with numerous priceless opportunities and experiences. For me some of those included traveling abroad for the first time, being a member and later chair of the Regents’ Scholar Orientation Planning Board, being Vice President and later President of the Regents’ Scholar Organization, and being the first college graduate in my family and a loud and proud member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2013! Currently, I am going on my fourth (4th) year as a Civil Engineer and soon to be Professional Engineer. I also continue to search for opportunities to grow and succeed. All of this would not have been possible without the experiences and opportunities the Regents’ Scholar Program presented me. I will forever be thankful for the impact the Regents’ Scholar Program had on my life and I will continue to show my appreciation by Paying It Forward and helping others succeed, too!
The Regents' Scholars Program provided me with a platform where I was able to better develop and hone my leadership skills. I was granted the wonderful opportunity to be an Older Wiser Leader my junior and senior year for fellow Regents' Scholars that struggled with their freshman year at A&M. This allowed me to become a mentor and most importantly, friend for them that they knew they could always count on. I also received support from the Regents' Scholars staff that helped me get through my own personal struggles that I had as a student. The different interactions that I had as a Regents' Scholar have helped me grow during my professional career as a Quality Engineer and have helped me work better with the many multifaceted teams that I am a part of on a daily basis. It has allowed me to better adapt to different situations and has given me the tools to effectively communicate and relate with people on the shop floor, to salespeople and clients, and armed me with the tools to success.
As a first-generation college student who found themselves on the path towards a college degree, financial aid was integral. I was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to provide for a family of 5, so affording a college tuition was a main concern. Scholarships and financial aid awards would be my only avenue towards a college education. Receiving the Regents’ Scholarship was key to my success in obtaining my degree, an idea that, at first, I thought would be impossible. As a Regents’ Scholar, I understood that out of thousands of applicants, Texas A&M chose me for this award. That fact alone was proof that there were people out there who believed in me. They believed I would be the first in my family to obtain a post-secondary education. Through the program, I met life-long friends with similar stories of a generation that would begin a precedent in their family and community of overcoming adversity and ending a cycle of academic stagnation. Through the Regents’ program, I was introduced to various organizations where my passion for mentorship transcended towards my career as a college adviser with Advise Texas College Advising Corps through Texas A&M University and now as a College Bound Adviser at Lanier High School in San Antonio ISD. My journey to college was a tumultuous one, and I was inspired to pursue a career where I could encourage a younger generation with a similar background as me to think about a post-secondary education. I live to inspire and impact, and I owe my success to the Regents’ Scholarship award.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” This was Nelson Mandela’s quote, and I chose it to express my interest in furthering my education and pursuing my professional goals when I applied to Texas A&M. I was a first-generation college student, oldest of three, and did not have the financial means to attend college. The Regents’ Program welcomed me with open arms and offered me a scholarship that gave me push I needed to leave home and move forward. I was offered financial support, as well an academic and social support system that helped me throughout my college trajectory. The leadership roles in this organization allowed me to grow and develop interpersonal skills and the discipline to be successful in the workforce. I am currently a 6th grade dual language teacher, and I have the pleasure to share my story with my students, so that their generation develops the expectations to set goals, and the mindset and determination to have a better future and help their families. My siblings are now aware that college is an attainable goal, and my family proudly supports their Aggies. This program gave me the platform on which I have built my vision for the future, molding my professional goals as I pursue a future degree in law. I am forever grateful to the Regents’ Program for supporting me during my time at that fine institution. I now understand what “paying it forward” truly means: it is the cycle of investment in one another other and giving back to our communities, the vision of the Regents’ Program that will continue to inspire and support future generations.
The Regents’ Scholarship isn’t just a scholarship. It’s a support community filled with encouraging faculty, inspiring mentors, and limitless possibilities. Through my involvement with various organizations in the scholarship community I developed the confidence, leadership, and professional skills to achieve goals outside of academia. I used my developed skills to create a program for Regents’ Scholars in Mays Business School, the Regents’ Ambassador Program (RAP). RAP, FOCUS and various other learning communities are an extension of the Regents’ Scholars Program, and further exemplify that as a Regents’ Scholar, there will always be a community available to guide and mentor you through the various obstacles you may encounter. As a graduate, I believe the support I received from the Regents’ Scholars Program and its communities was a key aspect to my success as a first-generation college student. Receiving the Regents’ Scholarship changed my life! Without it I wouldn’t have received a Finance degree from Texas A&M University, developed into a leader, created the Regents’ Ambassador Program to assist other first-generation college students to achieve their dream, and I wouldn’t be working as a Financial Analyst for Wells Fargo. I will never stop being thankful for the day I received the Regents’ Scholarship!
Mary Apolonia "Polly" Calderon '13
I’m currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University. With support from family, friends, and amazing mentors, I will be Dr. Calderon by May 2018. I would not be where I am today with the Regents’ Program. Being accepted as a Regents’ Scholar opened amazing doors for me. There are two opportunities that I will never forget and were all thanks to this wonderful program. The first experience, which gave me the travel bug, was a cultural immersion trip to Italy for an entire WEEK!! I got lost among the historical architecture of the Roman Ruins, the beautiful cathedrals, and the amazing landscapes…of course you can’t forget the food. However, one of the things that will stay with me forever was how as a Spanish speaker I was able to hold a conversation with a local woman who reminded me of my grandmother. I didn’t know Italian, but the roots of our languages are so similar that we carried a simple conversation. This experience will forever remind me how connected we are to everyone around the world. We are never truly alone and things are never solely done that don’t have an effect on others. My second experience was a catalyst that helped pave the way for my future career aspirations and that was serving as a mentor for other Regents’ Scholars. As a mentor, I realized I wanted to have a future career that helped students like ourselves realize that we are not alone in our journey and that we hold more potential that we may believe at the best of times. Being a Regents’ Scholar opened doors for me that I would have never thought possible. I travelled abroad, I became a research assistant, and I will become the first PhD of my family.
Beyond financial support, the Regents’ Scholars Program has helped my personal growth. I was fortunate to serve on the Regents' Scholar Student Planning Board in order to plan for the Regents’ Scholar Orientation. It was a valuable experience that shed light on my personal strengths and weaknesses beyond academics. These experiences taught me important life sessions such as team work, communication, and responsibility. The Regents’ Scholarship also allowed me to study abroad, through which I experienced different cultures in eleven countries around the world. With support from the program, I was not only trained to be a good scientist, but also to be an informed citizen of the world. After completing my undergraduate degree, I continue my education in the MD/PhD program to become a physician scientist at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, with aims to perform both clinical work and research in the future. Without the Regents’ Scholars Program, my undergraduate career would not have been as meaningful.
The Regents’ Scholars Program has made a huge impact on my life in several ways. I was able to study abroad in Paris, France my freshmen year, I was able to meet one of my best friends of six years and many other close friends, I was able to fund my undergraduate education, and I received my current job partly due to my involvement with the Regents’ Scholars Program and being an Orientation Counselor. A major takeaway from the program was the mantra “pay it forward”. I believe this ideal is incorporated into the work I do as an Academic Advisor in the College of Architecture. As an Academic Advisor, I am responsible for the overall coordination, planning, and development of undergraduate recruitment and outreach efforts for the college and all six undergraduate degree programs. I am also pursuing a graduate degree in Educational Administration here at Texas A&M University. I am very grateful to have been a part of the Regents’ Scholars Program and the opportunities it has brought to my life.