Each of their journeys follows a path as unique as their fingerprints.
Some of these students have taken a traditional route, pursuing a degree right after high school. For others, education was always on the horizon but unreachable — for numerous reasons — until many years later.
Within this group are preschool teachers and nurses. Future graduates hope to work in the fashion industry, law and fields in between.
They all, however, are the recipients of the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation scholarships at Doña Ana Community College. Since 2013, thanks to the Hunt Family Foundation, nearly 250 DACC students have earned the scholarship, propelling them to their educational goals. Those funds are matched by the Jon Wynne scholarship endowment at the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico.
“It has been really dramatic, the impact,” said Kristi Martin, who has worked at DACC for many years and is now serving as interim vice president for external affairs.
For the Hunt family, that’s the goal, just as it has been for decades.
“Expanding higher education opportunities in our region is one of the main pillars that our Foundation has supported for over 35 years to ensure that students from the Borderplex have the ability to pursue and complete a college education,” said Woody L. Hunt, chairman of the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation. “There are many talented students in Doña Ana County that are deserving of a pathway to college that is not impaired by financial constraints. We are incredibly proud to create scholarship opportunities that allow them to achieve their college dreams and create a more competitive region.”
That impact manifests itself in many ways.
First, there are the numbers.
When compared to the general population of DACC students, the Hunt scholarship recipients are twice as likely to have a successful outcome, which means they completed their degree program, are progressing toward it, or have transferred to New Mexico State University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
Further, they were more than three times as likely to earn their associate degree than the rest of DACC students.
“The completion rates for the associate, that’s really amazing,” Martin said.
She added that the scholarship’s consistency — it was recently renewed again for another four years — gives students something to count on.
The impact of the Hunt scholarships isn’t just measurable with institutional data. Based on thank-you letters from some of the most recent scholarship awardees, that influence radiates from the recipients who benefited from them, those around them and the greater community.
In her letter, Maria Antonia Herrera said she wanted to “set an example for my little brother and show him no matter how old you are it’s never too late to get a new dream.”
Herrera had been struggling to balance school and working two jobs through the pandemic, particularly when she lost one job and had to search for another. For Herrera, the “scholarship means so much because I don’t have to worry about the stress of paying for school,” she wrote. “I can work less and focus more on my education.”
After receiving a Hunt scholarship, many of the students expressed a newfound desire to pay it forward by helping others in some way, whether that be in their new careers, as a mentor to another future student or even as somebody who donates money for such a scholarship in years to come.
For Nadine Yudith Calderon, the Hunt scholarship provided hope.
Calderon wrote, “I’ve never had this kind of support system and it gives me hope that people out there are willing to help students like me.”
To apply for this or any NMSU scholarship, go to scholarships.nmsu.edu.
A version of this story was first published in the spring 2022 issue of Panorama, NMSU’s alumni and friends magazine. To read the issue, visit https://panorama.nmsu.edu.
CUTLINE: The Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation scholarships have helped nearly 250 Doña Ana Community College students since 2013. The funds are matched by the Jon Wynne scholarship endowment at the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)