The University of Texas at Brownsville
Johnny and Nena Cavazos
Johnny and Nena Cavazos of Brownsville have been active in the community for decades, giving scholarships to deserving high school graduates for many years. Their generosity has created one of the largest family scholarship endowments at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC).
A second-grade teacher before joining her husband in their successful insurance business, Nena said the couple’s gift – a total scholarship endowment of $1 million - was her special dream.
Sports and education have long been important to the Cavazos’.
“I believe the early years are very important. If you don’t get excited about education early on and see the value of it, it’s too easy to drop out,” said Nena. “Teachers make a big difference.”
Two years ago, the Cavazos’ initiated their relationship with UTB/TSC with a half-million dollar endowment for education students in the area of kinesiology, the study of human movement. Johnny was a high school football and track star and coached for several years before going into the insurance business.
“That money has been a big help. It covered my fall and spring tuition,” said a grateful Chris Cisneros, a senior in education who received one of the Cavazos’ kinesiology scholarships.
Expected to graduate in May of 2007, Cisneros works three jobs to help pay for college. He said he hopes one day to teach high school special education students.
“My parents are putting my little brother through college as well, and receiving this money has really helped a lot. I appreciate the help they have provided me,” Cisneros said.
This year the Cavazos’ created another half-million dollar endowment and Nena made sure that student teachers, who want to work with young children, also have the financial help they need to graduate.
“I’m a firm believer in education,” said Nena, who adds that a scholarship can be the difference between a drop-out and a graduate with a rewarding future.
Although the Cavazos’ have been providing annual scholarships in South Texas for some time, they say their UTB/TSC scholarship endowment, which is invested in the Long Term Fund, allows them to make a permanent investment that will support the community long after they are gone.
The couple treasures the cards and letters they receive from grateful scholarship recipients.
“I keep all those cards and letters,” said Johnny. “Some of them will put little tears in your eye.”
The Cavazos’ met at a much smaller Texas Southmost College in the early 1950s, not long after the campus moved to its present location at the site of the old Fort Brown Military Reservation. The couple supports the school where they first fell in love and began their college careers because they realize it’s importance to the community’s youth and economy.
Nena said she hoped the couple’s story, and the honors they have received, will serve as an inspiration to others just starting out.
We made it on our own through the college years, borrowing and working all kinds of odd jobs,” she said. “I hope it’s encouraging: If we can do it, somebody else can do it, too.”