Charlotte – Twelve Hispanic students received scholarships funded by President Barack Obama, who donated part of the money that came with the Nobel Peace Prize to support the study and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund selected the winners on the basis of their commitment to the development of these academic areas and because they demonstrated their interest in giving back to their communities by becoming professors once they graduate.
HSF's president, Frank Alvarez, said the donation of $125,000 of the $1.4 million that Obama received in 2009 shows the president's interest in the programs of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coalition and his desire to involve Hispanics in them.
"This year's class of Obama Scholars join last year's group of 12 students who are now getting ready to fulfill their pledge to give back to the community," Alvarez said in a statement.
Among the winners is Jenny Salgado, 21, a civil engineering student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is the first in her family to attend college in the United States.
Originally from Colombia, Salgado arrived in Charlotte at the age of 8 without being able to speak English but with the firm conviction to go to college.
Her mother, Lili Diaz Salgado, says that ever since Jenny was small she has been a responsible and enterprising student, and above all an example for her two younger siblings.
Like most young people, upon beginning high school she did not know exactly what she would study in college until in the 11th grade she met a person who motivated her to go into the field of civil engineering.
"I was never the smartest, but I was the steadiest," Salgado told Efe. "To be a civil engineer you don't have to be a genius but rather work hard, and that is what I've done since age 14."
To help pay for her college studies, the third-year student has a part-time job but devotes some of her time and energy to motivating other students to get ahead and not to give up regardless of their circumstances.
As vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at UNCC, Salgado visits high schools around the city to speak with young Hispanics about the importance of higher education.
"Many are undocumented (and) believe that the lack of papers is an impediment to going to the university. There are many options, private scholarships and other resources that they're not taking advantage of because of lack of awareness," she said.
However, part of the reason for the success of this young Colombian woman has been the support of her family who acknowledged from an early age her desire to get professional training.
"One of the characteristics of my daughter is that she's a tireless worker," said father Giovanni Salgado, himself an engineer.