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First Cohort of Impact Scholarship Graduates Makes History at UT

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Left to right: Camila Valdez, Ashley Juarez, Alyssa Garza, Guillermo Ledesma, Gloria Akinnibosun.

Graduation is always an exciting time on the Forty Acres. The Spring 2022 commencement season, however, will mark an important milestone in UT Austin history.

In alignment with UT’s mission to attract and graduate outstanding, high-potential students, UT launched the Impact Scholarship in 2018. Four years later, the 32 students in the first cohort are now graduating.

The Impact Scholarship recognizes outstanding Texas students who have made a remarkable impact on their communities. The scholarships include $48,000 over the course of four years of study, making them one of UT’s largest awards offered to incoming freshmen. Nearly 350 Impact Scholarships have been awarded to date, with awards increasing every year across the state of Texas.

“There are some really outstanding students in this cohort of Longhorns – students who have made a difference at a young age and are continuing to blaze a trail here,” said Caroline Enriquez, scholarship programs administrator. “I’m ever grateful to be a part of this program and their successes!”

Alyssa Garza is one such outstanding student in the first Impact Scholars cohort. A first-generation student from Mission, Texas, Garza is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. She credits the MITE (My Intro to Engineering) summer program as the reason she chose the Cockrell School of Engineering and is grateful to all the Equal Opportunity in Engineering (EOE) staff in supporting her academic journey.

Garza’s proudest achievement was being inducted into the EOE Hall of Fame, an honor only five students receive each year. After graduation, Garza will join Raytheon Intelligence and Space as a Systems Engineer. Though she’ll be moving to Colorado for her new job, she’ll miss walking around the Forty Acres, spending time in the Stacks in the Life Sciences Library, attending football games and being an officer for Pi Sigma Pi Minority Academic Engineering Society.

“As a first-gen student, I was confused most of my freshman year about what to do, questioned whether I belonged in Cockrell and struggled to navigate adulthood. The more involved I became with student organizations, the more I felt that sense of belonging,” said Garza. “Cherish every moment whether it be good or bad. You’ve made it this far and through faith and persistence, you can achieve everything you’ve ever dreamed of!”

Another member of the first Impact Scholars cohort is TIP Scholar, Guillermo Lezama. Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Lezama will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a UTeach Natural Sciences certificate. Over his first two years at UT, the first-generation student dealt with imposter syndrome. Fortunately, through the support of his professors, the TIP Scholar community and his best friend, Marilynn Gonzalez, Lezama learned to cut himself some slack and celebrate his achievements.

Lezama is most proud of the courage he had to switch his major from astronomy to physics. He advises future UT freshman to also believe in themselves and get out of their comfort zone. While Lezama will be moving back to Fort Worth to teach high school mathematics, he’ll miss hanging out at the EER building, enjoying the freebies on campus, spending time with his friends and living in Austin.

“Being at UT, and specifically Austin, has been a switch from my hometown. I am constantly inspired by the Austin spirit to stand up for what issues are affecting our community. Seeing this demeanor first-hand will definitely help me respond to community issues effectively,” said Lezama.

80 Impact Scholarships have been awarded to the Fall 2022 freshman class, as the Impact Scholarship continues to grow. We can’t wait to see how these Longhorns will use their scholarship and the support they receive on the Forty Acres to change the world.