The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) raised a record $125,000 during its recent annual Alumni Hall of Fame gala in New York City.
HSF incorporated social media at the event to raise money and award students. Implementing social media doubled pledges to HSF in comparison to prior years, according to HSF President Frank D. Alvarez.
"We went into this year?s (gala) wanting to test the assumption ? that social media 'connects' people," Alvarez told HispanicBusiness.com.
HSF officials set up a process that allowed donors at the gala to pledge money and have the dollar amount displayed on a video screen in the room via the Internet.
HSF also alerted thousands of students who were qualified for the scholarships, but hadn't been awarded one due to a lack of funds, to be online watching for additional funds as they became available. For every $1,000 pledged, HSF drew a random name and required the student to text "acceptance," so those at the gala could see their donations going to the organization's mission.
"The results were incredible, way beyond any of our expectations," Alvarez said. "We learned two important things -- the 'connection' theory works, and the too-often-repeated adage that Latinos don?t give is way wrong. Latinos give, and give generously."
Founded in 1975, HSF to date has awarded more than $360 million in scholarships for Hispanic students. During the 2012-13 academic year, HSF provided college scholarships to more than 4,000 students.
The college completion rate for the entire U.S. population has increased incrementally since 2007, according to Alvarez reported.
In 2010, 59 percent of Asian-Americans (ages 25-64) had earned an associate of arts degree or higher by comparison; 43 percent of white non-Hispanics, 27 percent of African-Americans, 23 percent of Native Americans and 19.21 percent of U.S. Hispanics had earned an associate's degree or higher.
However, the rate is not fast enough to keep pace with the skills required in today's global economy.
"Averaged together, 40 percent of today's American workforce has at least a two-year degree, ranking the U.S. in 12th place globally," Alvarez said. "Estimates from the Lumina Foundation and others project our workforce must reach 60 percent to regain international leadership and better assure America out-innovates, out-performs, and continues to perfect our capitalistic model of governance and retain our economic world leadership."
According to Alvarez, the graduation rate for Hispanic students has increased at a faster pace than it has for the other groups in the past five years. Hispanics are the largest group on college campuses -- two- and four-year -- at over 2 million students in 2011.
Hispanic students account for 16.5 percent of four-year and 25.2 percent of two-year enrollment. Latinos are now 25 percent of the U.S. public school (K-12) enrollment, according to Alvarez.
To continue its mission to help Latino students succeed, HSF's board of directors recently completed a strategic plan with a set of select goals that include increasing the dollar amount of scholarships given to $40 million annually by 2020.
When asked to share HSF scholarship recipients' success stories, Alvarez gushed like a proud father. Without naming names, he shared these stories:
A poor Puerto Rican kid from New York who went on to head a large U.S. private foundation and is now helping impoverished people across the world become economically independent.
A gay Latino youth who felt compelled to represent the marginalized and now leads one of the most influential nongovernmental U.S. civil liberties organizations and guards vulnerable citizens.
A youngster who rose from exiled child to tenured faculty, took leave to serve the country as an undersecretary in federal government service and returned to academia to become the first Latina to serve as president of her university.
"These are three of the many stories of triumph we at HSF see every day," Alvarez said. "It is these stories that drive our mission -- to strengthen America through the academic advancement of Latinos."