Mayte Lara puts face on the importance of MexAustin scholarship


This month, 17-year-old Mayte Lara, an Austin high school valedictorian, was thrust into the national spotlight after her tweet about being undocumented caught fire on social media.

Lara’s tweet received a barrage of negative responses, including some that said they would track her down, report her to immigration authorities and force her to return to her home country.

RELATED: WHO IS MAYTE LARA? MEET THE GIRL BEHIND THE TWEET

Her plight was covered by both local and national media, and she even inspired other undocumented students to come out of the shadows and reveal that they, too, were in the country without authorization.

Lara’s story put a human face on the difficulties faced by thousands of undocumented students throughout the state and country. Her story also highlights why the efforts of local groups are so pivotal in helping those students, who often overcome tremendous obstacles just to graduate from high school and come upon even further roadblocks to a college education because they don’t have access to sources of financial aid, like federal grants and certain types of scholarships.

In November, the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin announced it would partner with Foundation Communities to sponsor the MexAustin scholarship aimed at Mexican and Latino students in Central Texas. Foundation Communities is a nonprofit that provides affordable housing and support services for low-income residents in Austin.

The scholarship would be open to Mexicans, the children of Mexican immigrants and other Latinos, but importantly, it was also available to students who were undocumented.

“I’ve heard hundreds of stories from students who have had to beat so many obstacles to get to college and regrettably there is not enough financial support for them to fund their higher education,” said Carlos González Gutiérrez, consul general of Mexico in Austin. “This scholarship is a stamp of approval, a way of telling these kids that we support their efforts.”

WATCH: ‘Undocumented’ valedictorian inspires salutatorian to go public with status

In its first year, the group will give out $140,000 in scholarships to 140 students. Thirty-five percent of those students are unauthorized immigrants, including Lara, who will speak at the scholarship award ceremony Wednesday.

“We believe the future of the Texas workforce will depend heavily on Latinos,” González Gutiérrez said. “We think it’s against the interests of Texas to not make sure that these kids have access to funds to pay for college.”

Julian Huerta, deputy executive editor of Foundation Communities, said the $1,000 scholarships are useful for students because they are not bookmarked for specific items.

“They could use it for tuition or fees, but can also pay for books if they’re living in a dorm — anything that helps them be successful in college,” he said.

Both Huerta and González Gutiérrez said part of the reason for funding the scholarships was to help promising undocumented students with little access to financial aid reach their goals because they believe these students will be the Latino leaders of the future.

“These kids are acutely aware of the sacrifices their parents made and do not want to let those sacrifices be in vain,” González Gutiérrez said. “They’re going to be the future leaders of the U.S. … We want to do our part to help facilitate their higher education.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Advocates join effort to fix Austin police DNA lab problems
Advocates join effort to fix Austin police DNA lab problems

As lawyers and scientists continue to review hundreds of criminal cases that might have been affected by the Austin Police Department’s now-shuttered DNA lab, members of a stakeholders advisory group have started meeting to evaluate what went wrong and how to avoid mistakes in the future. The lab shut down in 2016 after a state audit found problems...
Perilous times for historically black colleges
Perilous times for historically black colleges

Two years ago, Amelia Smith received the one thing she thought she always wanted – a blue envelope from Spelman College. She had been accepted to what many consider the finest black college in America. Her grandmother went to Spelman. So did her mother. And her aunt. And her sister, who’s a senior there now. So Smith wasn’t surprised...
UT police investigating domestic assault on campus Friday night
UT police investigating domestic assault on campus Friday night

University of Texas police are investigating an aggravated assault that occurred Friday night in an on-campus dorm, officials said in a safety alert. According to police, a UT student reported being assaulted Friday night by her boyfriend, who is also a UT student. The incident occurred in the Jester residence hall, authorities said. Police said they...
Police searching for man that robbed Northeast Austin bank Saturday
Police searching for man that robbed Northeast Austin bank Saturday

12 p.m. update: Austin police are searching for a man who robbed a Compass Bank in Northeast Austin on Saturday, the second time that bank has been robbed this month, officials said. The bank robbery was reported at 9:09 a.m. Saturday at the BBVA Compass Bank in the 5700 block of Cameron Road, police said. Authorities said a man wearing a mask pulled...
OVERNIGHT: Four injured, some critically, in crash in Northeast Austin
OVERNIGHT: Four injured, some critically, in crash in Northeast Austin

Four people were injured late Friday night in a crash in Northeast Austin, according to Austin-Travis County EMS. The crash occurred shortly before 11 p.m. in the 6200 block of Decker Lane, EMS said. Four ambulances responded and took a total of four people to the hospital, including a woman believed to be in her 20s who had critical, life-threatening...
More Stories