How One Essay Inspired Texas Club to Quintuple Scholarship Funds

The original idea was that the Zapata Lions Club in Zapata, Texas, would fund three college scholarships worth US$1,000 each to the winners of an essay contest for area Leos.

Then they read the essays. The Zapata Lions were so moved by Valedictorian Gerardo Gonzalez’s essay about life as an immigrant and DACA student—fleeing violence in his home country and coming to the United States when he was just 5 years old only to watch his parents struggle to find work—that they knew they needed to do more for him and the other deserving students.

Club President Aurelio Villarreal turned to the community. In total, the club raised US$4,500 themselves and received US$9,000 in matching donations from universities, US$3,500 from the 50-year Lion Member Guadalupe & Lilia Foundation, and US$2,000 from private donors.

In total they awarded US$19,000 in scholarships.

“To me, this puts life in perspective,” says Villarreal. “If somebody asks me why I’m a Lion, I say it’s because I believe we can make a difference. Our original goal was to give US$3,000. Instead we gave out US$19,000. I guess we did make a difference.”