Central Valley students awarded $31,000 in scholarships

'We are hoping that once students are professionals, they pay it forward, and we continue the cycle of giving.'
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 21 Central Valley students walked away with a meaningful scholarship on Saturday.

A majority of them are LatinX and say every dollar counts for their future goals to come true.

A total of $31,000 in scholarships were awarded at a ceremony at the Mexican Consulate.

The evening was filled with joy and gratitude from the student recipients and their families.

"We feel so blessed and so thankful for being able to meet the people who are going to make this great impact in our future," said recipient Leonardo Luna Villicana.

Thanks to a partnership between the Mexican Consulate, the Health Education for LatinX Program, and the United We Lead Foundation, the funds were possible.

The financial support is geared toward minority students.

Maria Lemus with the scholarship committee says this award can be a huge stepping stone for many.

"We also have a lot of Dreamers. They come from large families, farmworker families, and a lot of the time family want to support their kids, but financially, it's a burden," said Maria Lemus, the chair of the scholarship committee.

Ten recipients are LatinX undergraduate students.

Another ten are Mexican-born or of Mexican-descent undergraduate and graduate students.

And one recipient is Punjabi.

19-year-old Leonardo Luna Villicana is a Fresno State student with big dreams of working in the medical field serving minority communities.

"I would love to analyze data and create plans for all age groups in our community AND make sure my community has a better education on the subject and that they can make more informed decisions," Villicana says.

He and his family moved from Mexico when he was 12 years old and says the scholarship means the world to them.

Meanwhile, Lemus says she, too, was a scholarship recipient years ago and believes in the power of uniting and paying it forward.

"We are hoping that once students are professionals, they pay it forward, and we continue the cycle of giving."

Plans Villicana already has in mind.

"I want people to see me as an example, que si se puede. You can do it," he says.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.