Iconic Mexican singer Vicente Fernández on his U.S. tour is combining two of his biggest passions - music and education - by presenting scholarships to Latino college students.

Shortly before a concert Sunday night at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia, Fernández met in private with Julio Francisco Serrano, the winner of one of the scholarships awarded by Budweiser via the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

"Chente," who did not speak with reporters, signed a three-year contract with the brewing giant to lend his name and prestige to the scholarship program for Latino university students in the United States.

Known as "the Frank Sinatra of ranchero," the 71-year-old performer of numbers such as "Lastima que seas ajena," "Que de raro tiene?" and "De que manera te olvido?" is on a 20-city tour of the United States.

Just as at other concerts, every student who has been awarded a scholarship has had the opportunity to speak with the artist in person and have photos taken with him backstage.

"I couldn't believe it. I applied for a scholarship last December and two weeks ago, when I was studying in the library, they called me on the telephone to let me know I had won," 21-year-old Serrano, a chemistry major in his senior year at the University of Maryland, told Efe.

"I'm going to save that money because I want to go to graduate school, perhaps at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I'll need money to move, for an apartment and other expenses," said Serrano, who added that his mother and the rest of his family had provided "fundamental" support in his efforts.

"My mom always instilled in me the value of education and never to give up. I learned to appreciate everything I have, and education is my main motivation," Serrano said.

Budweiser this year will award 24 scholarships, each one consisting of $2,500.

"I am pleased to collaborate with Budweiser on projects that empower the community, especially the Hispanic Scholarship Fund," Fernández said in a press release. "We are contributing to education by way of music."

In addition to the tour, which began on May 6 and will conclude on Nov. 26, Fernández will be the spokesman in Spanish for Budweiser television and print ads.

The relationship of Budweiser with the HSF began in 1982 and since then the firm has presented about $24 million to the organization, which has granted 20,000 scholarships to Latino university students.

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