HARLINGEN — On Wednesday afternoon Joanna Herrera, received a pleasant surprise. Without knowing it, she had become a recipient of the Soaring Scholars program from Foster Angels of South Texas.
Lucy Ann Wolthoff, the Rio Grande Valley Director, told Herrera there were multiple applicants but only four had been chosen. Foster Angels is an organization that provides opportunities to children in foster care. In this case, Soaring Scholars focuses on giving financial help to those who have been in foster care and are now entering college.
It offers a $10,000 scholarship over the course of four years to ensure the success of current and former youth in foster care in higher education. Herrera was first introduced to Wolthoff by Jamie Graham who is the Executive Director of Blue Sunday. Graham met Herrera through a foster youth camp hosted by Blue Sunday and encouraged her to apply for the grant. Now, Herrera will receive $1,000 every semester and $500 every summer for the remainder of her college career.
Herrera was born in Illinois and lived in different places before finally settling in Harlingen with her foster parents. She said she remembered crying as she wrote her essay which made her a recipient.
“You put your heart into it,” Graham said.
Wolthoff said it is difficult to make college students relive their memories but it also demonstrates how resilient they can be, which makes them deserving recipients.
Herrera appeared to be shocked as soon as she was told the news at the Blue Sunday facilities and said later on it would dawn on her.
She is one of the other three Rio Grande Valley recipients. According to the Foster Angels website only 50 percent of children in foster care graduate from high school and of that 50 percent, only two percent go on to college to complete a four-year degree.
One hundred percent of children in foster care in the state of Texas receive free college tuition to a public Texas university. However, other necessities such as books, rooming and more are not covered. Wolthoff said this is the main reason behind the program.
Herrera said she is excited and appreciative of the grant. Though she is named an example of resilience she said she does not see herself that way.
“I was just writing my story,” she said.