Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund awards $1.9M to students in Orange County

Scholarship focuses on STEM degrees for Hispanic students

ORLANDO, Fla. – Celebrating the accomplishments of 30 students by contributing to their futures. Community members gathered for the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund luncheon in Orlando Wednesday.

Over its 20 years, the program has awarded 403 scholarships, totaling more than $1.9 million, to over 330 students, according to the HHSFM website.

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At this year’s Rosen Shingle Creek Resort event, more than $133,500 was awarded to this year’s recipients, all of whom are Hispanic and currently enrolled in local postsecondary schools.

Among the attendees were the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund founder and board, as well as the recipients and sponsors of this year’s scholarships, which are funded by donations from community members and businesses.

“I really see how the Hispanic community comes together to make a positive change and help others make their dreams come true,” Maria Laura Carrillo Anez said.

Carrillo Anez is a student at Valencia College, with a dream to become a dentist. She said the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship will help fund the education she needs to get there.

Rodolfo Rodriguez-Muro also took the stage to receive his scholarship during the luncheon. He’s studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida.

“I get to stay in school and focus on my education without having to work. It takes a lot off my shoulders,” Rodriguez-Muro said. “Growing up, I didn’t know many other Hispanics that knew about these opportunities. I am glad I found out about this opportunity.”

Most recipients are first in their families to go to college.

“I feel hope, I see the future and the extraordinary thing about our community is that they are visionaries. They see it too and took action,” said Lizette Valarino, Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund founder.

The nonprofit organization grew out of The Hispanic Heritage Celebration Committee of Orange County, an employee group whose main focus centered on Hispanic Heritage Month.

Valarino served under several Orange County Mayors as the liaison with the Hispanic community. She founded the scholarship fund that focuses on degrees in STEM fields, supporting Latinx students in the diverse Orange County community.

A volunteer committee chooses recipients based on character, community engagement, leadership, financial need and area of study, with an emphasis on those expressing interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Of the 2021 recipients, 67% of them focused on pursuing degrees in STEM fields.

“This group represents the next generation of Hispanic leaders in Central Florida, and we are proud to be investing in their education,” said Elisha Gonzalez, Scholarship Fund chair and vice president of government affairs and community relations for FAIRWINDS Credit Union. “We are thankful to our community leaders, individual donors and corporate partners who joined us to celebrate the impact these individuals who will continue to make an impact in our local economy.”

About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.