Alumni Stories

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For more than 35 years, the Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship Program has inspired and supported the college hopes of our community of students. By awarding more than 4,700 scholarships totaling over $6 million to Hispanic Kansas City-area students, HDF has empowered generations to pursue their dreams through higher education.

These are some of their stories.


Clara Hernandez
Pharm. D. student at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy, HDF Scholarship Recipient

I am a first year pharmacy student at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree. My brightest goal is to be an accessible Spanish-speaking pharmacist to the Latinx community and inspire multilingual students to pursue health careers.

As I've progressed in professional school and taken more advanced classes, Latinx students and health professionals are scarce. It's because of this awareness that I chose to be a pharmacist. The community needs Latinx health professionals. Being able to assist Latinx families in managing their medications and providing consultations for better health is how the pharmacy profession inspires me.

Professional school is very costly and the HDF Scholarship has lightened the financial burden. I no longer need to work extra hours. Instead I can participate in study groups, meet with my professors, attend pharmacy seminars, and volunteer at health fairs. The Scholarship allows me to pursue a Pharm.D., diversify the health care field and represent, support and serve the Latinx community.


Elijah Marquez
Real Estate Analyst, Freddie Mac

As a young, low-income, transgender, Latino student from Kansas City, I never could have imagined the experiences I have had and accomplishments I have made these last four years. And while I’d like to give myself credit for being able to plan, be flexible and problem-solve my way through challenges to get to where I am today – I know I didn’t do it alone. There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone, but if you want to walk far, walk together.” I’ve walked far because I had the financial support from HDF, along with other scholarships, to push open doors for me rather than let the lack of financial ability keep them shut. Receiving the HDF scholarship each year allowed me to gain experience and exposure to people, placesand ideas that have helped me develop a greater sense of who I am and who I want to become.

This past May I graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., with a B.S. in Business Administration, a specialization in Information Systems and Technology, and a minor in Sociology. While in school, I worked as an intern at the Democratic National Committee and the Human Rights Campaign. I also studied for six months in Hong Kong and visited Singapore and Japan. Since graduating, I started my professional career at Freddie Mac, performing control testing to mitigate operational risks (e.g. data privacy, fraud/money laundering, information security/technology). In addition to my full-time job, I launched my first business, BrokeBookz. This service helps college students find their textbooks at the lowest cost, saving them time and money. Having been a low-income student, I understand firsthand the benefit of this service which is why helping others in this capacity has really become a special interest of mine.

As I continue this next chapter of my life, I will always remember that I am where I am today because I did not walk alone. My family and friends, my professors and mentors, and scholarship donors and board/staff members walked with me. With that in mind, I will make sure that I too walk with others, helping them achieve their goals, just as the Hispanic Development Fund did for me.”


Cecilia Lopez
JD student at the University of Kansas School of Law

All I ever wanted was to become a lawyer. Where other girls dreamed of becoming princesses, I dreamt of the day I would eventually be eligible to be a judge. I am a first-generation student. My family fled the violence plaguing our country and for a long time I didn’t believe that I was ever going to be able to attend college. I was a janitor for almost ten years before I found the courage to pursue my education. Growing up I was told all the reasons why I would fail: I am a girl. I grew up in an abusive, economically poor home. I did not have the resources. Yet here I am.

I know that the American dream is a labor of hard work and imagination, of not giving up when the road gets hard. I have worked hard at achieving the American Dream since I first arrived in the United States. I do not see limits, but obstacles that I must overcome. I have been told many times that one person cannot change the world, but time and time again I see how wrong that statement is. A college education is an investment in my community, an opportunity to help others improve their lives.

Receiving an HDF scholarship has given me the opportunity to pursue my goals, and it has also opened my eyes to the impact of the Hispanic and Latino community in this country that we call home. America is a country of many cultures and ethnicities, a country where diversity and differences don’t mean chaos but strength. I am a woman, a GED recipient, a Hispanic immigrant, a non-traditional student, an American. There are millions of people just like me residing in the USA, and studying law will allow me the opportunity to better represent them, and to come from a place of understanding.

Without the support of the Hispanic Development Fund I wouldn’t be able to achieve my goals, but even more so, the idea that my community believes in me and my dream helps me work harder and overcome any struggles coming my way.


Sandra Olivas
Vice President of Bilingual Business Development for Brotherhood Bank & Trust

I was raised in the heart of KCK in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood called Argentine. Both of my parents punched their timecard everyday working hard in local factories to support our family. They encouraged me to study and prepare for college not knowing where the money would come from to pay the tuition. When I enrolled at KU the cost was daunting for my family.

But when I applied for the Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship Program and received a scholarship along with matching dollars from KU, my dream seemed possible and within reach! My parents managed to send money each month to help pay for my dorm room and I worked two jobs, making ice cream cones at Dairy Queen and serving up breakfast at Country Kitchen to cover books and the rest of the bills.

I still remember my mom bragging to her friends on the phone that I had received the Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship. I will never forget how the Awards Ceremony was such a proud moment for our whole family. Now, it's my turn to help others attend college and accomplish their personal goals.


Areli Aguilar
Miss Kansas Latina 2016, B.A. in Sociology and minor in Communication, Emporia State University

Being able to pursue a college degree meant everything to me. My parents moved to the United States because they wanted my sister and I to have a chance at pursuing higher education and accomplishing our dreams. My parents mean the world to me and I wanted to make them proud and for them to know that their sacrifices paid off. Also, I wanted to break the stereotype that some people have of Latinos. In high school, I had a counselor laugh at me when I told her I wanted to go to college. She told me that Latinos were very unlikely to succeed and finish college. By going to college, I wanted to show those who don’t believe in us, and Latinos ourselves, that we are capable of accomplishing everything we set our minds to.

Receiving the Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship for four consecutive years gave me the opportunity to help my parents out with some of the expenses that college involves. It didn't matter the amount I received because I knew it was money that would help my family and I get a step closer to graduating. So, thank you HDF!

In July I was crowned Miss Kansas Latina 2016. I would like to use my title as a platform to inspire and serve as an example for other students who like me are DACA students trying to accomplish their dreams in this country. I want them to know that everything is possible when you are willing to work hard to get to where you want to be.


Sarah Plake
Reporter, KSHB 41 Action News

I graduated from the University of Kansas with help from the Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship Program. Now, I have my dream job. I want to make sure other students have the same opportunity. When you feel supported, you succeed. I knew nothing about college; I was the first in my family to go. Knowing there's a group that believes in advancing the lives of Latino students from Kansas City meant everything. Your donation, no matter how much, will mean the world to college students in the same situation.


Andres DeAvila
HDF Scholar at KU Med

We Hispanics with DACA status have many struggles to get an education as we don’t qualify for financial aid or any student loans. In addition, we are not accepted into many programs, such as the one I want to enroll in after I graduate next year (medical school), due to our immigration status and/or inability to pay tuition. Consequently we encounter a lot of closed doors in pursuing a higher education.

ReceivingHowever, HDF is a partner that helps us open doors. To me, receiving a scholarship from HDF means that there is someone who believes in my dreams and who tells me not to quit trying to reach them. It is so much more than a scholarship, it is an ‘I believe in you’ whispered to my ear, and I know all of my fellow Hispanic friends feel the same way.


When students receive a scholarship from HDF, they automatically become part of the family of HDF Scholars. Almost 4,000 individuals make up the HDF Scholar alumni. 

Alumni provide hope to current and future scholars, reminding them that they, too, can attend college, complete their degrees and have successful careers. As an alum, you are a role model to students whom you do not know.


We invite HDF Scholar alumni to update your contact information and stay connected. In the future, we hope to use your updated information to accomplish the following:

  • Story: Share your story with our followers
  • Mentor: Develop mentoring opportunities for scholars
  • Internships: Develop internship opportunities for scholars
  • Volunteering: Find ways to engage you