Alice Macias exploded out of her seat with tears streaming down her face.
She wasn’t alone.
Macias and other parents of Dr. Sharon Vuich’s third-grade class at Martinez Elementary School learned Wednesday that their children were being awarded full scholarships to the college or higher education institute of their choice by The Rogers Foundation, a non-profit organization named for Beverly Rogers and her late husband, local media mogul Jim Rogers.
All the 24 students have to do to be eligible for the scholarship is graduate from high school and be accepted by a college or higher education institution. The foundation will pay for their education.
The scholarships are just the start, said foundation president Rory Reid, who announced the scholarships in the library of Martinez Elementary School, north of Lake Mead Boulevard and east of Interstate 15.
“That’s about the most fun I’ve ever had,” Reid said after the parents and children stood either stunned or crying after learning of their good fortune.
The foundation’s endowment includes more than $100 million from the Rogers family and is dedicated to support the academic and artistic achievements of Clark County students.
The foundation will also be offering grant opportunities for schools in Clark County and other individual scholarships, Reid said. Any school can apply for the grants, he said. The deadline for grant requests is April 15 and the winners will be announced by June 30.
“I wish Jim was here to see this,” Beverly Rogers said.
Parents and children alike were overwhelmed. A number of the students kept running up to Beverly Rogers and Reid, thanking them and giving them hugs.
Education has always been at the forefront of the Rogers’ philanthropic efforts, Beverly Rogers said.
And the foundation won’t just be giving money to the best students. It will aim to lift up schools, such as Martinez.
For instance, Vuich’s class isn’t full of geniuses. It is a regular class with regular kids, said principal Tim Adams.
The foundation, which along with the scholarships revealed a plan to give grants and money to Clark County schools, chose Martinez after noticing that in two years it had gone from a state rating of one star to three stars. The highest rating is five stars.
From there, the foundation asked Adams to select a class that would be awarded the scholarships. Adams placed the names of his four third-grade teachers on four balls and in a bingo-style lottery randomly selected 20 times from the balls.
Vuich’s name was pulled the first five or six times, as if it was “destiny,” Adams said.
“This school is doing what Nevada schools need to do” Reid said.
Adams attributed the school’s improvement to having skilled, quality teachers who dedicate themselves to educating their students, the principal said.
Reid added that parent participation has played a key role in the turnaround, as 99 percent of the students’ parents attended the last parent-teacher conference held.
One of those parents who was there Wednesday was Amiela Akmal, who wept when she learned her daughter, Damya Sanders, 8, was one of the students chosen for a scholarship.
For Akmal, her daughter’s acceptance to college is a given.
“She’s a straight-A student. She’s going,” the mother said. But paying for college has always been a concern. And Damya, who wept openly along with her mother as she recognized the opportunity before her, knows exactly what she wants to do.
“I want to be an eye doctor,” Damya said.
Macias was overwhelmed as her daughter, 8-year-old Cecilia Loredo, embraced her.
“We discuss this a lot,” said Macias. She and her husband have four kids and had no idea how they were going to send them to college.
Having her children go to college isn’t a maybe in her household. She tells them all the time they will go, which leads to the “how are we going to afford it” discussion, she said.
“I didn’t have this privilege,”
“That’s one prayer is answered,” she said. Now she just has to figure out what do about higher education for her other three kids, she quipped.
Meanwhile, there was a 25th student from Dr. Vuich’s class who did not attend school on Wednesday. The student has been out of class for a while and it’s unclear if she has withdrawn, Adams said. The principal added that all efforts will be made to reach the student and her family and make them aware that she is eligible for a scholarship.
Contact Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe