The ballroom at the Courtyard by Marriott was filled with close to 300 people Saturday night for the 2018 Scholarship Banquet sponsored by the Killeen-Fort Hood League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535 and the LULAC Council 4535 Foundation.
In addition to awarding scholarships to area students, the group celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the formation of LULAC Council 4535 in Killeen, the 25th anniversary of hosting an annual banquet and the 15th anniversary of the tax-exempt foundation.
Since its beginning, the foundation of LULAC Council 4535 has awarded more than $175,000 in scholarships to high school students graduating from the Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts as well as current students of Central Texas College and Texas A&M University-Central Texas.
This year, funds raised through the foundation and through other sponsors provided $1,000 scholarships each to 20 students.
Seventy-six students applied for the scholarships.
Sponsors joined the recipients at the podium as they received a certificate and a signed copy of the book “No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers” written by the banquet’s guest speaker retired Maj. Gen. Freddie Valenzuela.
A rather enlightening sponsorship story is that of Marisela Barrera who took the oath to become an American citizen during last year’s banquet. She has not wasted any time in getting involved in the work of the LULAC Council 4535 by sponsoring a second student in memory of her late husband.
Barrera said, retired “SFC Dora Galdamez has become my sidekick and as a team we’ve taught citizenship Spanish in Copperas Cove and Killeen.”
Barrera’s selection this year was Nancy Melana, a Killeen High School student who will pursue a business degree.
Barrera is a life-long KHS kangaroo. She met her husband, Fidel, at Killeen High. He graduated in 1975. They married and had four sons who also graduated from KHS.
The remaining 2018-2019 scholarship recipients are:
- Luz Elena Garcia — Killeen High
- Perla Melena — Killeen High
- Alfred Lafayette — Killeen High
- Keihlann Garrett — Shoemaker High
- Kiana Chong — Killeen High
- Leslie Alvardo — Copperas Cove High
- Terris Brown — Pathways High
- Loren Carter — Copperas Cove High
- Makayla Cole — Harker Heights High
- Makenzie Wolf — Shoemaker High
- Montego Muckelvaney Killeen High
- Mychel Howard — Ellison High
- Shawn Williams— Killeen High
- Jessica Faglie — Central Texas College
- Monique Dara — Central Texas College
- Benito Costilla — Texas A&M-Central Texas
- Carina Mendoza — Texas A&M-Central Texas
Brown said, “I plan to pursue visual performing arts and am thinking about becoming an actor or model and explore fashion design. I was thrilled to get the scholarship because not everyone makes the cut. When I know that I’m a winner, it feels real good!”
“For college students, CTC and A&M-Central Texas agreed to match scholarships this year,” said emcee Raul Villaronga and foundation chairman. “There will be six scholarships awarded to current students at those universities.”
Other awards were presented to Killeen Police Department Officer of the Year Chad Krakowian and Killeen Fire Department Firefighter of the Year Travis Bass.
In addition to the scholarship program, for the past five years, LULAC Council 4535 has presented citizenship instruction to legal residents who want to become U.S. citizens.
“We’re really proud to assist people who want to become citizens,” Council 4535 President Julia Villaronga said. “Ninety eight percent of those I’ve asked about why they want to become citizens, they say so they can vote. We have 75 people in two classes this year who are working on their citizenship.”
Valenzuela told the scholarship recipients that it’s vitally important to get an education. “Secondary education is the key to the future,” he said. He also thanked LULAC for going out of its way to address education, the most important topic in the United States today.
“Thanks to all the veterans who are here and for the family members who also paid the price,” Valenzuela said. “If not for them, we wouldn’t have the military that we have today.”
At the conclusion of the banquet, the Hispanic of the Year award was presented to Benito Costilla.
In 2014, Costilla was introduced to LULAC while he was attending college in the local area.
“LULAC saw that I was interested in advocacy and they sent me to the nation’s capitol to get involved in immigration reform,” he said. “About a year later, I got a national award from LULAC and ever since that time I spend time in Washington, D.C., visiting numerous congressional offices. I’ve been there when votes have been taken on immigration issues. We got close but this is a risky issue and we must continue to do what we can.”