09:21 AM

MEDA Scholarship Helps Mission Students

The MEDA (Mission Economic Development Authority) scholarship is open to any Mission resident who can maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 with at least 12 credit hours per year. Grants per semester range from $400 to $800, depending on the number of credits students take, up to a maximum of $3,200. The scholarship is not based on need.

“The MEDA scholarship is not entirely altruistic,” admits Daniel Silva, chief executive officer, Mission and Economic Development Corporation. “In Mission, we have a young population with an average age of 27. We want these students to graduate and get good jobs, and hopefully stay here, buy here, and pay taxes here in the city.”

A Positive Partnership

As Coordinator of Scholarships for South Texas, Judy Martinez is equally enthusiastic about the college’s partnership with the city of Mission. “We’ve seen a high demand for this scholarship. These are high-caliber students, and we’ve been able to help a diverse group, from those coming out of high school to an older population as well.”

Indeed, some of the most gratifying stories Silva and Martinez have heard come from older students who return to school to reboot their careers. “They may get an associate’s degree, or do a boot camp program in, say, cyber security. Once they’ve completed their coursework and taken the exam they are nationally accredited,” says Silva. And that, of course, can lead to a broader range of career options.

While the majority of scholarship recipients are under age 26, almost half are between 26 and 40 years old. “I think the scholarship gives those older students the little extra motivation they need to go back to school,” adds Martinez.

She’s talking about students like Belinda Knoblach, who took a 30-year hiatus between high school and college and is now working toward her bachelor degree in organizational leadership.

“I applied for the scholarship but didn’t fully realize what it meant. That first semester when I got the check in the mail I was completely floored! I could get the books I needed, and it was just such a tremendous blessing for my family.” At the time, Knoblach’s husband was out of work and she was working as a substitute teacher.

Keeping it Real

Requirements for grant recipients are purposely kept reasonable. “Any Mission resident who applies and has decent grades can get the scholarship,” regardless of what they want to study, Silva continues. “It helps our purpose of bettering the community with a more qualified workforce, and that in turn helps Mission recruit businesses that pay more.”

Doroteo Pena says he probably would have attended South Texas anyway, “but the scholarship has been so helpful. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I hope to get my bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M San Antonio when I finish here. The MEDA scholarship saves me a lot of money, and I’ll know I’ll be able to continue my education.” With the scholarship, students like Pena who transfer to a four-year college won’t have as much debt.

Pena’s goal is to work in secondary education as a special education teacher and coach. The 21-year-old is taking classes this summer and hopes to finish his associate’s degree next spring.

Both Pena a Knoblach say they’ve had no problems keeping their GPA up to the level needed to maintain their scholarships. “Honestly, if I had gone to school when I was younger I don’t think I’d have been as serious as I am now,” says Knoblach, who juggles two classes a semester while working full-time and raising a young son. “I’m maintaining my grades not just for the scholarship, but for myself.”

MEDA Keeps on Giving

In the six years since the scholarship has been rolled out, 420 full-time and part-time students have benefitted.

“The school gets the word out through radio announcements, social media, newspapers, and the recruiters who go to Mission high schools,” says Mike Carranza, interim dean of enrollment services. “Most students applying from Mission have heard of the scholarship, and there’s been an uptick in applications every year.” The MEDA scholarship can also be combined with other grants, such as Pell grants, for students who need more assistance.

For questions about the MEDA scholarship, or to apply visit https://studentservices.southtexascollege.edu/finaid/scholarships/meda.html. Students may contact Javier Guajardo at 956-872-2629 or jguaja78@southtexascollege.edu for more information.