SAC Advisor Awarded USDA Education Fellowship
Friday afternoons are usually a time to tie up any business for the week and start entertaining thoughts about what to do for the weekend. For Bonita De Leon, a certified advisor for the Health and Bioscience Institute, an email from the president's office on a Friday afternoon set off a flurry of activity that would last until the next week.
The email announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was taking applications for the 2017 E. Kika De La Garza Fellows Program. The fellowship, according to the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach "offers faculty and staff from Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) the opportunity to work collaboratively with USDA to gain insight and understanding of the federal government."
The only hitch was that the application needed to be completed and sent to the USDA by the following Tuesday. Fortunately, De Leon received instant support.
"I asked my supervisor if she would help me with the application and she also agreed to send a letter on my behalf," said De Leon. "The president's office also sent a letter of support. It all came together in just a few days."
She said the primary goal for applying was to learn more about the opportunities available through the USDA.
"I am always looking to build my knowledge base so I can better assist the community I serve," wrote De Leon in her application. "Many times, the students I see are first generation, Latino/a students. This is a diverse population that has many needs and interests."
"As a Latina myself, I remember my experience during my first semester of college. I was uncertain and afraid - not sure if I could succeed in this new environment. Without the help of my mentors, classmates, and professors, I would not be where I am today. I carry that thought with me as I engage with students, staff, and faculty," wrote De Leon.
De Leon learned in May that she was awarded the fellowship. She is one of only 13 education fellows and one of three from Texas.
"I was overwhelmed. I didn't expect to get this fellowship. This was a stretch goal for me," said De Leon, who added that she wanted to complete a fellowship as part of her long term goal to go into a doctorate program.
De Leon will be in Washington for two weeks beginning June 18. While in the nation's capital, she plans to network with faculty and staff from other HSIs and to take part in a dialogue on the challenges faced by students in college.
It's also her first trip to Washington so she plans to fit in some sightseeing. "I'm a big museum person. I am going to pack in as much as I can."
The fellowship was named in honor of the Eligio "Kika" De La Garza, a South Texas congressman who served in the US House of Representatives from 1965 until 1997. De La Garza died in March of this year at the age of 89.