Amid the coronavirus shutdown, the MLB national award-winning Texas Rangers scholarship program found innovative ways to honor this year’s graduates and welcome those selected for the class of 2021.
It is during the end of the school year when those selected to participate in the unique program designed to identify and train our future leaders are recognized for their commitment to reach their full potential.
This year, however, the 23-year tradition of doing so had to be modified to comply with the shutdown of our school system.
When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recognized the Texas Rangers with the highly coveted award for what he identified as the best example of community service among all the 30 major league baseball teams, he said such a program was how he hoped all of them would work to support their host cities.
I was honored by the Rangers in 1997 by attaching my name to the leadership development initiative when the ball club made a 20-year commitment to fund its full development.
What started as a $1 million commitment in awarding $10,000 scholarships annually to a graduate from each of Arlington’s high schools, has now moved way beyond that initial promise.
After following the success of those promising students selected year after year, the Rangers decided to continue the program in perpetuity and celebrate what had become a regular outcome of these young adults exceeding all expectations.
Today the alumni numbering more than 130 individuals have distinguished themselves in family and career development ranging across the fields of medicine, law, business, military service, government leadership, education and more.
The Rangers and a local group of mentors who have been involved in the selection process and support for the chosen students in their senior year as they moved through local government, the public education system, business, and community service organizations didn’t want the year to end without some kind of recognition for both the graduating seniors and those selected for the coming year.
The usual process of doing so would unfold during the annual awards ceremony at each of the city’s six high schools. But, not this year since those events were variously taking place remotely.
So, community leaders Buddy Bridges, Mary Jean Maloney, Sandra Campbell, Judy Rupay, Kris Hawbaker, Sylvia and I reached out to this year’s graduates with gift packages and the delivery of the award medal to wear on their graduation robes.
Recipients included Arlington High graduate Blessing Roland-Magaji, who is headed to Scripps College to study molecular biology; Aaron Runnels from Bowie High seeking a business management degree at Florida A&M; Sofia Mendoza from Lamar High and enrolling in UT Austin’s government and pre-law program; Sophia Lee from Martin High, going to Cornell University working on her degree in nutritional science in the field of human ecology. UT Arlington landed Sam Houston High’s Jose Rebolloso majoring in environmental science, and Lluvia Diaz from Seguin High, seeking her degree in business administration.
The selection process usually takes place via in-person interviews that include some of the aforementioned mentors along with the Texas Rangers Foundation executive director Karin Morris and program manager Ray Casas. For the class of 2021 it was conducted over three days via 30-minute individual Zoom meetings with this year’s three finalists from each of the six high schools.
Although we often wish we could choose all three of these best and brightest young people, we are limited to just the one from each school who we believe will be the best fit for the leadership development work that will span the entirety of their senior year.
Those making the final cut included Louis Alexander from Arlington High, Kennedi Arceneaux from Bowie, Siam Tungnung at Lamar, Martin’s Christin Williams, Servando Olvera at Sam Houston, and Seguin’s Ethan Syed.
In years to come, we will look back on this chapter modified by the pandemic of 2020, and celebrate the success for each of these outstanding students. If the past is indeed prologue, that outcome won’t change.