Southeast Missouri State University student publication

New scholarship creates educational access for Latino and Hispanic students

Monday, September 27, 2021

People all over the United States celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and SEMO celebrates the month by hosting cultural events like movie nights and outdoor concerts presented by university faculty and staff. Many of these occasions are also fundraisers for the Believing Everyone Can Achieve (BECA) Scholarship.

The scholarship is given to anyone who self-identifies as of Latino or Hispanic origin, is ineligible for financial aid overall and resides in the United States.

The BECA Scholarship was created in 2019 by former Spanish professor Debbie Lee-DiStefano. As DiStefano worked with Latino students in her classes, she said she noticed they weren’t represented enough on campus, so she decided to create the BECA Scholarship. DiStefano said she wanted to open the scholarship to students who self-identified as of Latino or Hispanic origin, no matter their documentation or citizen status.

“Let's think of Dreamers who came with their parents and are not eligible for financial aid. They are eligible for this [scholarship], because the documentation status does not matter. What matters is the identity status and that they reside in the United States,” DiStefano said.

Vice President for Equity, Diversity, Access and Behavioral Health and Dean of Students Sonia Rucker has helped create and raise funds for the BECA Scholarship. Currently, $5,250 has been raised for the BECA scholarship out of the 10k it needs to be fully endowed. Rucker said her goal with the scholarship is to make sure it reaches its fully-endowed amount and a student receives the money every academic year to reach their academic goals.

“I think, sometimes, people avoid pursuing college, so it's important for us to be able to share that there are funds, and there's support,” Rucker said. “There are resources that will be available to [students] if they decide to come to Southeast Missouri State University,” Rucker said.

Rucker works with SEMO faculty and students from the Hispanic and Latino Student organization. President of the Hispanic and Latino student organization Bryce Wolf said he is working with members of the organization and the Hispanic and Latino Committee on campus to come up with different fundraising events to help reach the goal of $10k.

“Being able to give that money could make the difference between someone who's hopeful for attending college, to help them decide, you know, I want to go do this, I feel like I'm supported,” Wolf said.

The next fundraiser event for the BECA scholarship is during the SEMO soccer game Sunday, Oct. 3, at 1 p.m. T-shirts printed with “Halconos Rojos Fútbol” (Redhawks Soccer) will be sold during the game, and the food truck, Mr. Taco 911, will be set up near one of the endzones. All proceeds will go toward the scholarship.

To donate to the fundraiser, visit the University Foundation website, and for more information about upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month activities, visit the Division of Equity, Access and Behavioral Health Facebook page.