Somos Tejas State creates student support fund to aid Hispanic and Latinx students
Somos Tejas State, which translates to We Are Texas State, is a Hispanic/Latinx student support fund that raised $3,000 in 2018, the year it was born. The next year it raised $10,000.
This year, Somos Tejas State aims to increase student retention and encourage professional development while supporting students.
The organization’s focus is on being a student and minority and, in some cases, a first-generation student. Like an older sibling, it helps students who might not have someone to give advice on managing school and finances.
Toni Moreno, Somos Tejas State creator and assistant director for Hispanic and First-Generation Student Retention for Student Initiatives office, explained how juggling school, work and finances is a huge worry for students.
“Money's hard to come by for our students of color. Sometimes they have to pick between gas in the car, keeping the lights on, or making sure they're eating. Even being able to pull together money needed for a conference registration fee or having attire that they feel comfortable in to attend professional development experiences can be a difficult experience. That's not always something that they have readily available and that's why Somos Tejas State was created,” Moreno said.
The fund is provided through the student initiatives office and disbursed by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Money from the goes directly to supporting students. Somos Tejas State allocates these funds for any standard financial struggles that could jeopardize academic success. “For example, during COVID we sent money to make sure they had groceries,” Moreno said. “We made sure that their bills were being paid, we made sure that they were able to take care of outstanding tuition fees, because we want to make sure that the first step towards professional development is making sure that they graduate.”
Some of the funds granted have gone to conference registration fees, professional development, and transportation to attend conferences, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference.
Jamie Saucedo, a senior and recipient of the Somos Tejas State fund, first heard about the fund because he wanted to be involved in helping. Saucedo worked to spread the word about Somos Tejas State with Moreno but soon found himself also needing financial help.
“I had been venting to Dr. Moreno about how I could only pay the regular conference fee and couldn’t afford the additional fee for the undergraduate pre-conference opportunity,” Saucedo said. “She asked if I wanted to use the Somos Tejas Fund to attend the conference. I was hesitant at first because I felt that others might have more of a need than I did. Nonetheless, Dr. Moreno decided to move forward and paid for the additional conference opportunity with the funds.”
Saucedo said this conference was the push he needed to pursue graduate school.
“I networked with dozens of students and professionals from around the country, got my feelings of being burned out validated, and learned what my future career field in Student Affairs may look like as things progress in the pandemic,” Saucedo said. “The conference was life changing. I needed to hear from others who had similar interests as me during a time where I considered changing my future career — it rejuvenated my passion and sparked my fire again! I am now applying to grad school because of the conference that I was only able to attend thanks to Somos Tejas State.”
Moreno believes everyone needs a helping hand, especially Hispanic students who might feel as though they do not have support. Somos Tejas State has reached out to Hispanic alumni in hopes that their shared experience with current students will inspire a sense of relatability and encourage them to support students who have been in their shoes.
“We are just garnering support for students at Texas State to let them know that there is a community outside of campus that is rooting for them and to make sure that they finish, which is the ultimate goal — graduating from Texas State,” Moreno said.
Saucedo recommends that students apply for the fund and believes it is an excellent opportunity to help combat financial disparities. “The Somos Tejas State fund opens the door for students to new opportunities and that assist students in networking in their future career fields, graduating on time, getting certifications, dressing nice, and meeting basic living needs.”
Somos Tejas State hopes to grow with the university community and is accepting donations to support more students.
“We all need a little bit of help sometimes,” Moreno said. “I think teaching our students that there are people out there that care, that there is a community behind them and it's not just with their words, it's with their privilege that they're stepping up and supporting, and it goes beyond money,” she said.
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