Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, 100 area high school students this year secured a collective $4 million in endowments via the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Legacy Scholarship program.

The substantive scholarships cover $10,000 in academic costs for each of the four years of college for all Legacy Scholars. 

Bernice Uresti, Executive Director, Legacy Scholarship and Scholars​

“It is very fulfilling,” Bernice Uresti, the Area Foundation’s Executive Director of Legacy Scholarship and Scholars, said of running the program. “Over the years, students will message me and tell me how getting their college degrees changed their lives. Just hearing those words of affirmation is heartwarming.”

A 23-year Area Foundation veteran, Uresti was tapped to head the program three years ago when the scholarships were launched. Since then, she has seen exponential growth in the number of applications and awards among eligible students attending high school in Bexar and Webb counties.

To illustrate: The foundation received 557 applications during 2021-22 before seeing that volume nearly double to 1,004 applications for 2023-24. “The very first year we awarded 50 scholars,” Uresti added. “The second year and this year, we’ve awarded 100 scholars.”

Uresti attributed the program’s growth to bolstered outreach efforts, both through social media and in-person presentations.

“It’s myself and another staff member getting out there in the community and talking to counselors and administrators,” Uresti said. “Sometimes, we get to speak to a class full of kids. We go out there, tell them about the scholarship and provide them with tips on how to submit an application.”

Such efforts paid off for junior Daniel Alvarez who heard about the scholarship from his counselor at Travis Early College in San Antonio. The son of immigrants from Piedras Negras, Mexico, Alvarez soon will represent the first generation of his family to go to college.

“The plan is to study computer science,” he said of his future focus at the University of Texas at Austin. “I’ve always been into computers; it’s my passion. I’ll be going to my ideal, dream school!” he added with palpable enthusiasm.

He could hardly contain himself upon finding out he had won a Legacy scholarship. “I visibly jumped out of my chair and gasped really loud,” he said. “The first thing I did was call my mom, and she was very happy.”

Legacy Scholars in Webb County were celebrated last month at Texas A&M International University in Laredo.  Uresti said around 75 people – including scholars, parents and other guests – gathered in celebration of this year’s scholarship awards.

Uresti can readily identify with students like Alvarez. “I am a first-generation college graduate myself,” she shared. “I didn’t go to college right out of high school. I was married with three children by the time I graduated. Everyone’s journey is different.”

She would later graduate in 2001 from the University of Texas at San Antonio where she studied business and finance. Her personal narrative yields even greater professional fulfillment.

“I know myself how transformative getting a college education can be,” she said. “It is my pleasure to help others like me looking for a way to improve their lives and make their futures. It’s my honor.”

Tony Cantu is a contributor to the San Antonio Area Foundation Storytelling Ambassadors Network.