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Hispanic students eligible for McDonald scholarship

Students of Hispanic heritage living in the Big Bend who plan to attend college could receive a scholarship offered by the Ronald McDonald House Charities. HACER, which stands for Hispanic-American Commitment to Educational Resources, is aimed at assisting students in their quest for higher education. Winners of the scholarships will receive $1,000, which will be sent directly to the accredited institution in which the student is enrolled.

The deadline to apply for the money is Feb. 15. "It's important that students know this is a one-time scholarship and it doesn't matter if they attend a public, private or community college," scholarship chairman Reggie Garcia said. Selections are based on academic achievement, financial need, community involvement and a personal essay.

The scholarship was originated in El Paso, Texas, by former educator and McDonald's franchise owner Richard Castro. In 1985, Castro led the effort to create a scholarship program that would serve as encouragement for young Hispanics to complete high school and to continue their education. Today, the scholarship program is one of the largest targeting Hispanic students in the country. The national Ronald McDonald House Charities organization matches each dollar raised locally for the scholarships. The scholarship was introduced in 13 North Florida and three South Georgia counties in 2004.

"Last year we only gave out six scholarships. This year we're reaching out to more schools to make sure those who need the money have an opportunity to get it," said Kathy Anderson, president of the Tallahassee Ronald McDonald House Charities. One of the goals of this year's program is to make sure students are aware of the opportunity. "We were disappointed that more students didn't apply last year, but the good thing about it is last year's money rolls over," Garcia said. "This is a community-outreach effort, and we're talking to churches, schools and other organizations to try and encourage the students to jump at this opportunity of free money." Students are eligible for the scholarship if at least one parent is of Hispanic origin, if they live in one of the designated counties and that they plan to attend an accredited college in the United States.

HOW TO APPLY Applications are available online at www.scholarshipadministrators.net or can be requested by calling the Ronald McDonald House Charities at 850-222-0056. All applicants must submit a high-school transcript, personal statement, letter of recommendation, and their parents' W-2 forms.

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