FARMINGTON — Five San Juan College honors students each received $1,000 scholarships as part of the launch of a new University of New Mexico scholarship program.
The scholarships were announced during the eighth annual Honors Program Banquet on Tuesday in the Henderson Fine Arts Center.
This was the first year UNM scholarships were awarded to San Juan College honors students. The money came from both a San Juan College fundraiser and UNM, said Jack Fortner, the president of UNM's board of regents, who presented the awards.
"We thought what a way to make it easier for them (to go to college) but to give them partial scholarships," Fortner said before the banquet started.
The five students who received scholarships were Seve Tom, Sienna Rucker, Tamie Villasenor, Annalysia Martinez and Viviana Montoya.
"It was a complete and total shock," Rucker said. "I was not expecting it at all."
Montoya, who is a mother of two, emigrated from Mexico in 2010. She earned her high school equivalency with the help of the Engaging Latino Communities for Education campus program.
"It's a huge surprise," Montoya said of the scholarship. "I come from a country that we don't have these opportunities. I'm happy and pleased to receive this."
Montoya will graduate from San Juan College in May with an associate degree in elementary teacher education. She hopes to become a bilingual elementary education teacher and to pursue her master's degree.
Tom enrolled at San Juan College after the economy dipped. When he graduates with an associate degree in business administration this May, he will become the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
Villasenor started attending college to support her daughter, who was struggling with classes at the college. Along the way, Villasenor rediscovered her love of science and now she's set to graduate with an associate degree in biology.
The UNM scholarship recipients represent the goal of the honors program, said David Bramhall, the honors program director.
"We've created a program that enables people to go out and excel, to find out what they can do intellectually," Bramhall said.
During Tuesday's program, 138 students were honored, including 78 who are scheduled to graduate and 60 who are currently in the program.
The Merrion Family Foundation and the San Juan College Foundation recognized honors students with scholarships starting at $100 for students who have not completed the program and $200 for graduates.
This marked the third year of the Merrion Master Scholars, a program for students who earn a minimum 3.6 GPA and have taken at least 18 hours of honors courses.
There were 26 Merrion Master Scholars this year, who each received a $300 scholarship and will have their names engraved on a plaque in the Learning Commons building on campus.
The Merrion Family Foundation contributed $28,200 in scholarships during the program, about $3,200 more than last year's amount.