Giving your money away after hitting a $266 million dollar jackpot may not be the first thing on your mind. But after striking it rich with a winning multi-state lottery ticket, one of Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros’s first goals was to give back.
As part of their dream to help others in their Southern California town of Pico Rivera, the Cisneros have founded a scholarship fund to help first-generation college students. Jacki’s grandfather was one of the founders of Pico Rivera, the population of which is now about 64,000. But in a city where only 7.1 percent of adults older than 25 have bachelor’s degrees, opportunity is limited. For this reason, the couple created the “Generation 1st Degree Pico Rivera” scholarship fund. The Cisneros started the fund with $1.25 million dollars and in 2012, will begin awarding promising students who otherwise may not have the means to pay for college. El Rancho is the only High School in Pico Rivera and the scholarship fund aims to put at least one college degree in every household.
“As soon as one person achieves a certain level, then the rest of the family begins to think they can do it and get there as well,” says Frank Alvarez, Hispanic Scholarship Fund President and CEO. “So there are ripple effects and we know that in the Latino community if we plant one in the family to get a college degree, then the rest of the family has got a mentor has got somebody who’s been through it. They can then share the information and the ripple effects particularly in the extended Latino community, the primos, primas and tios, tias you know the whole thing.”
The Cisneros set up the program through the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), as part of HSF’s “Generation 1st Degree” initiative. HSF not only provides first-generation Latino college-goers with scholarship money, but also helps them settle into college life, stay in school, and even find a job after graduation.
“Most Latinos in the U.S. don’t have a college degree,” says Alejandra Rincón, the Vice President of Programs of HSF. “So it’s obviously very exciting that someone, you know, puts forward, that they walk the talk, you know that they’re going to say, ‘Yeah this is an issue, but here, we’re going to put the money and we’re going to make this happen, for all of you.’”
The couple will also set up a special scholarship in honor of Jacki’s father, former Pico Rivera Mayor Frank Terrazas. The Cisneros vow the “Generation 1st Degree Pico Rivera” will not stop with the students of Pico Rivera. Someday, they plan to expand their scholarship opportunities to students across the U.S.