Scholarship funds to be raised during event Saturday

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FARMINGTON — The mother and grandmother of Casey Jordan Marquez have formed a nonprofit organization and are planning an event Saturday to raise funds for scholarships for San Juan County high school graduates.

President Wanda Johnston, Vice President Levi Bridge and member Jamie Lattin formed AZTECSTRONGSJC, and are expecting the paperwork for nonprofit status this week.

Lattin is the mother of Marquez, one of two Aztec High School students killed on Dec. 7 during a shooting at the high school.

She said it's her goal for her daughter to make the scholarship presentation an annual event.

The fundraiser will be held in the High Desert Room at the Sunray Park and Casino from 1 to 5 p.m. at 39 County Road 5568 east of Farmington.

Lattin and Johnston invite the public to watch the horse racing and participate in a raffle at the event with a lot of prizes.

The inspiration for the event came from the New Mexico Horseman's Association, who reached out to Johnston and helped organize the event along with Sunray Park and Casino.

Johnston has been a horse trainer for about 30 years and started bringing her daughter and granddaughter to the race track when they were children.

"They knew Casey and wanted to do something for the community," Johnston said.

There are 26 scholarships of varying dollar amounts that graduates can apply for on Saturday.

Twenty of the scholarships are for any San Juan County high school student who graduated during the 2017-2018 school year.

Johnston said nonprofit projected the 20 scholarships would be worth $300 each, but that amount is expected to increase due to the response of the community.

Four $500 scholarships were provided by San Juan College for students who attend the college.

Two $500 scholarships are sponsored in Marquez's name along with Lattin's son Daniel Triston.

The number of prizes donated for the raffle has overwhelmed Lattin, who had to stop accepting items earlier this week. Johnston said the response from the community was unbelievable.

The wide range of items in the raffle include 30 bales of hay, 12 tons of gravel, a 50-person pool party at the Microtel in Aztec, a full day float trip on the San Juan River, a couple of fly-fishing trips, a house cleaning, custom knives and a camping package with a Yeti cooler and portable barbecue grill.

Graduates who wish to apply for the scholarships need to apply at the event and be present when the scholarships are awarded at the end of the event, Johnston said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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