Pathway to Success

Written by: 
Teresa Love

Joseph Sotelo, biology major and recipient of a Greater Texas Foundation scholarship. (Photo by Michael Clements)Joseph Sotelo, a biology major from Fort Worth, dreams of becoming a doctor -- but how to pay for his education has always been a concern. With help from a Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Grant through UNT, Sotelo is receiving financial support as well as academic support services to help ensure his success in earning his undergraduate degree.

"I was inspired by my mom to go to college. She was a single mom when she raised my brother and me. She works really hard for us," says Sotelo, who just finished his first year at UNT but already is classified as a senior. He attended an Early College High School to get ahead and save money.

Texas Early College High Schools serve students who are at risk of dropping out of school and provide an associate's degree or up to 60 hours toward a baccalaureate degree, as well as financial assistance. They partner with institutions of higher education to provide services to these students as they matriculate.

The Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Program was created in 2012 to increase the number of Texas Early College High School graduates who successfully transition to a four-year institution and complete a bachelor's.

"Without this scholarship, I wouldn't be here at all," Sotelo says. "Being debt-free as an undergrad makes it possible for me to go to medical school."

This year UNT renewed its Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Grant for $890,000 as a result of a collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Advancement's Foundation Relations Office, which assists any campus department seeking funds from an external foundation. The grant duration is seven years.

"It's important that we work with departments to seek funds from a variety of sources to provide the best opportunities for our students," says David Wolf, vice president for advancement.

The Greater Texas Foundation Scholars 2.0 Grant includes a comprehensive program of support services. The financial award from the grant is $2,000 per student, and UNT then commits to providing a total package of financial support covering the full cost of attendance. Eligible students may receive funding for three consecutive years.

UNT provides a dedicated admissions counselor for Texas Early College High Schools and accepts up to 25 students to the Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Program each year. In addition to scholarship funds, UNT offers academic enrichment activities that include pre-orientation meetings, semester kick-off events and academic reboot programs to help those who may be struggling academically. Students meet regularly with counselors and also receive financial counseling and advising support.

"This support is everything for me," Sotelo says. "I have to succeed and it's not just for me now. I'm doing this for the people who invested in me and trust that I will do big things in life. They care enough to donate their money for me and other students and are life changers for us."