For nearly 30 years, Cougars have been closely connected with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). The annual event is a city institution with its championship roping and riding competitions and world-class concerts. HLSR also makes an impact in the community by supporting talented college students – including many who are attending the University of Houston.
Currently, more than 200 UH students benefit from $3.8 million in HLSR scholarships. Since 1987, 1,500 rodeo scholars have earned degrees at UH. Each of these students has faced personal challenges, but overcame them. Thanks to self-determination, discipline and the support of HLSR, they each are continuing their academic journeys at UH.
Among these dedicated students is senior communication major Merline Gonzalez. During her first year at UH, she and her family were in a car accident that left her seriously injured but fortunate to be alive. Despite doctor’s orders to stay out of school for one month, she returned to class after a week of recovery. Since then, she has honed her talents as a broadcaster at a local television station and interned for Mi Familia Vota, a nonprofit organization promoting civic engagement in the Latino community. Gonzalez is now earning a professional certificate through the C.T. Bauer College of Business’ Program for Excellence in Selling.
“The HSLR Scholarship symbolizes so many things to me,” she said. “Without the scholarship, I would not be able to attend college and obtain the education that will lead me to my dreams. The scholarship represents the fruits of my efforts. It represents the hard work and multiple sacrifices that my parents have had to make to give me a better future. It means I have made myself proud, but most importantly I have made my parents proud.”
Gonzalez recently joined other rodeo scholars aboard the HLSR float during the Downtown Rodeo Parade. Among those representing UH in the parade was junior accounting major Veronica Campos. Like Gonzalez, she survived a horrific car crash. She was in junior high when that wreck nearly killed her. This event, however, was only one of several difficulties she endured. Through it all, Gonzalez has been a dedicated student and is grateful for HLSR’s support.
“The Rodeo scholarship has lifted a heavy burden off my shoulders and off the shoulders of my family,” she said. “College can be expensive, but I know the value of my education at the University of Houston is greater than the price tag. UH is an excellent school and with the help of the people of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I know I have more than just tomorrow.”
Another parade participant and HLSR scholarship recipient is Kyle Knight, junior corporate communication major. He is the third person in his family to earn this scholarship. The financial support was welcomed as Knight and his siblings were raised by a single mother. Now, Knight is excelling at UH and contributing his time and energies toward helping others. Knight led the Relay for Life event that raised money for cancer research and is involved with the HOPE Collaborative, which provides assistance and scholarships for high school students.
“I’m getting my hands into the thick of what it means to reach audiences near and far with a purpose in mind. Like HLSR, I’m helping people smile,” he said.
HLSR also awards scholarships to students at the other UH System institutions (UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown, UH-Victoria). To date, 1,700 students system-wide have received support from HLSR. Scholarships offered through HLSR include Technical, Area Go Texan, Exhibitor, Hildebrand, Metropolitan, Military, Opportunity, School Art, 4-H, Future Farmers of America and Achievement. For details on these scholarships, eligibility, requirements and application deadlines, visit the HLSR website.