UVA — Celebrating 40 years of Helping Students
By Sue Torres
How do you measure success? The University Vocational Assistance program AKA UVA has been measuring it “one student at a time” for the past 40 years. The concept of assisting bright but financially challenged Lakeside students began as a quiet act of kindness by members of the Little Chapel by the Lake community in 1976. As is reported by Beth Nelson in the church history it all began when two young daughters of a local indigenous minister needed assistance to attend nursing school. There are many stories of success but one that stands out for us is this.
Forty years after the program began another nursing student lead the way for others to follow. Maria Josefina Contreras Mendosa was a struggling single mom trying to raise two young sons and complete nursing school when she came into the UVA program. Fast forwarding several years: she now is the owner of Mi Casita nursing facility in San Antonio Tlay and is an example of what can happen with support and confidence from others. She now gives back by speaking out to current students, hiring people and thus assisting the community, and by providing a safe and caring situation for those who need it.
As time passed the program became more secular, and in the early 2000’s the official move was made to rename it to better reflect the current activities. Thus the UVA Scholarship Fund A.C. was born. The aims, goals and general rules remain as they have been since the beginning. Building on years of success UVA continues to quietly support, counsel, monitor and provide assistance to university students from Jocotepec to Mezcala. As has been the rule since the beginning UVA does not have fund raisers, and sponsors are assured that 100% of money they donate for students goes to students.
How has this quiet program been successful for so many years? UVA’s steps for success include a level of involvement and concern for the student and his/her family that transcends the simple financial support. First of all the application process is very extensive. After acceptance of the application, the interview and vetting proceeds with two UVA board members visiting in the home and establishing that the information provided is correct and that there is family support. Once accepted into the program the student becomes part of the UVA family and remains so forever. Monitoring becomes a part of their university experience.
At the close of each semester the student meets with UVA representatives to review their grades. A grade point average of 8.5 or better is required each semester to continue to receive support. The program is open to full-time students attending an approved university or technical school. There are no limitations on age or family status.
Factors that contribute to the success of UVA are:
CONSISTENCY. UVA is very careful that program rules are applied consistently and all students are treated equally without exception.
DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS. A cornerstone of the program is the commitment that 100% of funds donated for students go to students.
TRANSPARENCY. A donor is kept aware of how their donations are distributed and they may be involved as much or as little as they choose.
The above mentioned steps have resulted in an impressive donor loyalty over the many years. One recent change in the program has been professional licensing assistance. This “title” is what really legitimizes the student as a professional in his/her chosen career.
The UVA commitment is a simple but clear one — provide support for bright but financially challenged Lakeside students throughout their schooling and through licensing. In return they agree to maintain a grade point average of 8.5 or better each semester, remain in a full-time program in the approved school and conduct themselves in a manner that reflects well on the program and the community.