Texas A&M agriculture students create $25,000 scholarship with future students in mind

COLLEGE STATION — Mollie Lastovica, Stefen Tucker, Deanna Bosse, Justin Benavidez and Whitley James can’t wait to get out of college.

That is, they can’t wait to get out of college before they start giving back.

The five signed documents Nov. 5 to create the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council Endowed Scholarship for future students. Officials said it is rare for students to give to scholarships – much less to endow one – at such early ages.

“The typical age of person who does an endowment at Texas A&M is 69,” said Patrick Williams, a director of development for the college. “So we are very excited that students are giving back so early in life.”

The five are officers of the council that represents the college’s 7,265 students.

Student leaders signed documents Nov. 5 to create the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council Endowed Scholarship for future students. Officials said it is rare for students to give to scholarships – much less to endow one – at such early ages. Left to right are Dr. Chris Skaggs, associate dean; Sydney Reece; Whitley James; Justin Benavidez; Mollie Lastovica; Dr. Mark Hussey, dean; Stefan Tucker; Deanna Bosse; Katie Muehlstein; and Alyssa Spruill. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kathleen Phillips)

The students didn’t bat an eye at that amount. They had money sitting in an account from Agriculture Career Exposition events where potential employers pay for exhibit space in order to access students looking for jobs. The event, hosted by the agriculture college’s student council, formerly had been held in conjunction with another entity on campus that had been more costly.To become endowed, or perpetually in place, a scholarship must be funded with at least $25,000.

When the council moved its career day to the college’s headquarters, costs were substantially lower and the account grew, the officers explained.

“Dr. (Chris) Skaggs, our advisor, encouraged us to consider ways to use the funds rather than have it sit unused in an account,” said Lastovica, council president and a junior agricultural communications and journalism major from Fredericksburg. “So the officers got together over the summer and brainstormed about possible uses.”

Skaggs, the college’s associate dean, said the idea for a scholarship came entirely from the student leaders and was supported unanimously by the 57-member council when presented at the group’s first meeting earlier this semester.

“The students recognized the significant impact of scholarships on their own lives and wanted to give back to future students in the college,” said Skaggs.

Tucker, an animal science major from Wheeler and the council’s vice president for public relations, said being a part of creating a scholarship while still in school has been personally rewarding to him.

“There were people in high school who had doubts about whether I could stay in college,” said Tucker, who started at a junior college. “I was overshadowed by other students. So even to come to Texas A&M as a student was a big deal for me. And now to be a part of something like this is just an amazing feeling.”

Benavidez, the council’s vice president for finance, said the criteria for selection include any student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a 3.0 or higher grade point average, who has demonstrated leadership ability and involvement in non-classroom activities and service in the community.

The first scholarship of $1,000 will be awarded in the spring of 2013 for use the following fall semester, he said. Most of the student leaders who voted the scholarship into being will not have graduated.

“We wanted it that way,” said Bosse, a senior agriculture business major from Brenham, noting that previous student councils also deserve credit for establishing the career event that helped accumulate funds. “We want to be able to see the student we help through the scholarship.”

The officers said the council action may yield not only the scholarship but an impact on future student leaders.

“We hope that the younger members and future members of the council will continue to use the discretionary funds toward the scholarship to make more and bigger awards,” Lastovica said.

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