Such is the case for Odem native Mariah Gonzales, who received $100,000 from The Ronald McDonald House Charities/Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources (RMHC/HACER) scholarship in June 2013, and is currently about to start her sophomore year at the University of Texas at Austin.
The RMHC/HACER’s owner/operator, Richard Castro, has awarded more than $23 million to Hispanic students throughout the nation since 1985, making it one of the country’s largest college scholarships. Only four students in the nation each year get to take home this prestigious award. Gonzales was one of them, and has turned her great work ethic into success. Like many working families, college is not always a feasible option, but Gonzales’ hard work and efforts as a young philanthropist and academic scholar paid off in a huge way. “This scholarship gave me so many opportunities that, without it, I wouldn’t be able to experience,” Gonzales said.
She is currently studying medical laboratory science and is on the pre-med route, as she ultimately wants to be a pediatrician, because, as Gonzales passionately proclaimed, “I love little kids.” “I have younger siblings (Petey, 8, Aiden, 11 and Hillary, 16), and I love babies and children, and work well with them, so it makes sense,” Gonzales said.
She mentioned how inspiring it was to see what the Ronald McDonald House is all about when she was presented her big check at the RMHC in Corpus Christi. Gonzales also loves being a big sister. “I want to show my younger siblings that anything is possible as long as you believe you can do it. I just want to help make a difference in this world,” Gonzales said. Gonzales got to spend the summer with her family and is getting ready to head back into the college classrooms in just a few days.
This young lady, as a teen, was involved in Life Teen and the National Honors Society, mini cheer clinics, the Confraternity of the Christian Doctrine (CCD), the Junior Catholic Daughters of the America Organization, volleyball, cheerleading, softball and was third in her class at Odem High School. She giggled when she said she was the highest ranking girl in academics at the school. Gonzales has continued her volunteer efforts at UT, where she’s now part of the pre-health experience group of pre-med students who volunteer to visit hospitals.
She also devotes time to The Volunteer Leadership Network, a large network of 500 passionate volunteers who help with projects such as cleaning, painting buildings and with the National Food Bank in Austin, just to name a few.
“I love helping and I love the scenery of Austin,” Gonzales said. “It’s so diverse, the people are welcoming and there’s so much to do.”
Her strong desire to take on more challenges and be part of the medical field landed her a health physics internship this fall, for the Environmental Health and Safety Department on campus. Gonzales explained that Gonzales is excited about the new opportunity to start working around physicians and said it’s part of her goal to “set a good example,” as is also the mission of The Volunteer Leadership Network for the Class of 2017.
One of her mottos in high school has remained part of her philosophy towards life.“I stand as a leader to those in my community because I do my best to make the right choices and lead others to do so as well,” Gonzales said.
With her financial backing, a strong academic record, will, and kind heart, Gonzales will soon be achieving all of her dreams.