Five Educators Named Recipients of 2020 Zaffirini Teachers’ College Student Loan Debt Grants
The holidays are the season of giving, and five Laredo educators have been given generous grants to help them reduce their college student loan debts through a program established by Carlos Zaffirini, Jr. honoring his mother, State Senator Judith Zaffirini.
In a reception Monday at Texas A&M International University’s (TAMIU) Senator Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center, the 2020 recipients of The Senator Judith Zaffirini Teachers’ College Student Loan Debt Grant were named.
The honorees, recognized for their exemplary dedication to Laredo students, are Gloria S. Becerra (’99), kindergarten teacher, Juarez Lincoln Elementary (United Independent School District); Dr. Gilberto Martinez, assistant professional of Theatre Arts, TAMIU; Prakash K. Mansinghani (’10, ’11) , associate professor of Government, Laredo College (LC); Rebecca Mendoza (’12), fifth grade teacher, Heights Elementary (Laredo Independent School District), and Sandy Webb (’13), English teacher, St. Augustine Catholic School. Four of the five honorees are TAMIU alumni.
Each receives $2,000 to help reduce his or her college student loan debts. To qualify, teachers must have taught in Laredo for at least five years, have a college student loan debt of at least $5,000, and be selected by his or her institution, based on program criteria. The program was launched in Laredo in 2018 and extended to southeast Austin in 2019. Participating institutions select their respective recipients each year.
Recipients and their family and friends, community guests, and colleagues from TAMIU, LC, LISD, UISD and St. Augustine High School attended.
Carlos Zaffirini Jr. said he established the program to honor his mother, who completed three degrees at The University of Texas at Austin thanks to a National Defense Student Loan, and struggled to pay it back, largely through teacher loan forgiveness programs.
“Her passion since then has been to make higher education accessible and affordable for all Texans, especially South Texans,” he said, “so I thought, what better way to honor her than to help teachers pay their college student loan debts? This is my way of saying ‘thank you,’ not only to her, but also to those who made her education possible through student loans.”
Senator Zaffirini confirmed that higher education is indeed her passion.
“Higher education truly is my passion,” the senator said. “I wish I could express the love, pride and joy that I feel to see my son not only share it, but also embrace it through his generosity in countless arenas, especially in education.”
Zaffirini Jr., an attorney, businessperson and philanthropist, is president and CEO of Adelanto Health Care Ventures (AHCV), LLC, a healthcare finance consulting firm. Since 2012, he has honored his mother annually with endowed gifts including scholarships at TAMIU, UT-Austin, and the Baylor College of Medicine, the Access to Justice Initiative at the UT Law School, and a family patient suite at the UT Dell Seton Medical Center.
The Teachers’ College Student Debt Grant Program will continue through 2020. To date, 15 Laredo and five Austin teachers have benefitted from the program.
This year Zaffirini also established the Senator Judith Zaffirini Good Works Grants. The first, for $5,000, was awarded this month to the Guadalupe Valley Family Violence Shelter, which serves Guadalupe, Karnes and Wilson counties in her district.
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