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Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas announced Tuesday they are working with two local organizations to help improve educational access for local young men of color.
Toyota will fund two full ride scholarships. One follows the My Brother’s Keeper-San Antonio (MBK) initiative by being awarded to a local young man of color wanting to teach in his community, and another is inline with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission‘s goals to educate and retain minority youth in San Antonio.
According to research reviewed by My Brother’s Keeper and the MLK Commission, young minority males lack role models and mentors at home and at school, hindering their chances at educational advancement. A&M-SA and Toyota have taken this data and advisement from the two organizations to craft scholarships for students that will someday fill that gap.
The local A&M campus, located about 10 miles from Toyota’s assembly plant in the Southside, is the state’s fastest-growing university. Bexar County students and parents can visit the university’s scholarship page for details about the new Toyota-supported scholarships on campus that will be available for students looking to start school this fall.
The length and amount of each scholarship will vary based on whether the student awarded is a freshman or a transfer student from St. Philip’s College.
“I often say in San Antonio talent is universal, opportunity is not, and that’s part of the reason Texas A&M-San Antonio exists,” said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, university president. “It was built to fill a gap in our great region.”
A&M-SA is on the lookout to build partnerships with community groups such as My Brother’s Keeper, Teniente-Matson explained, which launched in 2015 as a response to President Obama’s nationwide challenge for city leaders to establish a coherent life-impact strategy for men of color. The MBK initiative is designed to help African-American, Hispanic, Native-American, and all non-white men and boys to reach their full potential regardless of life’s circumstances.
The MLK Jr. Commission has also worked to positively impact the opportunities available to people of color. The commission organizes events and initiatives that pay tribute to the iconic civil rights leader and his work, including one of the country’s largest MLK Day marches.
It also has a growing scholarship program. Commission officials recently announced their organization will award a record $400,000 in scholarships to Bexar County students this year through its Dream Scholar Program and MLK Scholarship Fund. A&M-SA was asked by the commission to provide a full ride Dream Scholar scholarship. Several other local colleges and universities participated in this endeavor when the Dream Scholar program began in 2015.
“Because of the MLK Commission, opportunity exists – opportunities for education, progress, forward thinking and action,” Teniente-Matson said. The university president also praised My Brother’s Keeper, calling it a “true testament to education and quality of life for the individual.”
A&M-SA’s alignment with the two organizations and a major neighboring corporate employer Toyota has made the university even more committed to “creating a college-going culture,” Teniente-Matson said.
When he was appointed to the chairperson’s position, MLK Jr. Commission Chair Brandon Logan and Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) discussed a need to focus on the commission’s scholarships to help advance education efforts in an under-served community, particularly the Eastside.
“Now, if it weren’t for the MLK Jr. Commission’s vision to be intentional about establishing a scholarship, then we have more students that have less access to opportunities,” Logan said.
Mike Etienne, director of San Antonio’s EastPoint Promise Zone, is vice chair of the local My Brother’s Keeper steering committee and explained the organization’s work.
“My Brother’s Keeper is essentially a call to action to work together to develop key strategies to improve quality of life for men of color in the city of San Antonio,” Etienne said. “The key word is opportunity. We want to provide opportunities for young men of color. We indeed have challenging neighborhoods in our city, especially in the Eastside Promise Zone, and in the Westside and Harlandale (Independent) School District. So we are all working together.”
Encouraging more minority students to enter a career in education, Etienne said, can help introduce more teachers of color into local classrooms citywide and beyond. The new scholarships are a step in that direction, he added, and minority teachers can serve as role models and mentors for minority students who struggle to stay in high school and want to go to college.
Councilmember Warrick said Tuesday’s announcement is a celebration of “a San Antonio moment,” when different local organizations and businesses are working together “to make things better in this city.” Groups such as My Brother’s Keeper and the MLK Jr. Commission, he said, take on complex social matters with the hope of obtaining tangible local solutions.
“For indeed it takes a village to address those issues because the issues that face us are so great,” Warrick said. “It takes a village and this is the beginning of that village here.”
Warrick also encouraged other local universities and businesses to be involved with developing and supporting similar scholarship offerings.
Mario Lozoya, Toyota Texas’ director of government relations, said his company and the two organizations reached into local educational data provided by the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County and found the educational gap that this new partnership seeks to address. Lozoya also chairs the Brother’s Keeper workforce committee.
The dearth of minority mentors helping young men and boys of color is startling, Lozoya said.
“There’s a lack of mentors at home, a lack of leadership in the classroom,” he said. “Right now there are no men of color in the pipeline ready to become a teacher. That to me was astonishing and told me we had to do something to fill that gap quickly.”
Lozoya said the new partnership extends beyond the Southside community to all of San Antonio.
“It’s not really the (scholarship) dollar amount that matters,” he added. “It’s the idea of the community coming together to create a process that is sustainable and long term.”
*Top image: MLK Commission Chair Brandon Logan (left) speaks with EastPoint Director Mike Etienne while taking a tour of the Texas A&M University – San Antonio campus. Photo by Scott Ball.