LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The Public Education Foundation announced Tuesday that it awarded a record-breaking $2.7 million in college scholarships to students this spring. The money that was given to more than 600 graduating high school seniors and college-enrolled students for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year was thanks to the generosity of donors.

Since 1995, The Public Education Foundation has worked with individual donors and organizations to award more than $18 million in scholarships to more than 6,400 students. Each year, approximately 350 scholarships are available, some that award to multiple students and opportunities are open for everyone from the resilient student who overcame obstacles to the high school athlete.

Denises Justo-Soriano, a graduating senior from Rancho High School, had the following to say after she received a scholarship through The Foundation.

“I am extremely grateful for receiving the Jeffrey A. Smith scholarship! Receiving the notification that I was awarded this scholarship was a light in the dark days that has followed the [COVID-19] pandemic, Justo-Soriano said. “I hope to attend Grinnell College and pursue a career in medicine, and I believe that this financial aid has facilitated this goal of mine. I believe that receiving this scholarship would help me benefit others as I plan to give back to my community with the education I receive. I will return to Las Vegas with a doctorate degree, ready to work in the healthcare field. Health care professionals in Las Vegas are wanting, and I believe my community needs more diverse clinicians willing to work with underrepresented groups. I believe that this scholarship will benefit my community and me in many positive ways. Thank you.”

The Foundation’s scholarship program was created to increase post-secondary completion in Nevada, to both improve the lives of college-bound students and to create an educated workforce to drive our economy.

“The Public Education Foundation is proud that our Scholarships PLUS program identifies a broad cross-section of talented students from throughout Southern Nevada,” said Judi Steele, CEO of The Public Education Foundation. “Working with our donors, we are able to give our scholarship recipients the opportunity to pursue their post-secondary education goals.”

According to the Public Education Foundation, typically, 68% of students receiving Foundation scholarships are the first in their family to attend college. Additionally, 81% of students who receive a scholarship through the Foundation will successfully complete college and earn a degree, compared to 58% of students nationally.

Alyssa Marie Lagua, a graduating senior from West Career and Technical Academy, also wrote of the significance in receiving a scholarship through The Foundation.

“Scholarships matter because they open up the way to college to those who might have never thought they could get that far,” Lagua said. “They help promote equality of opportunity, the idea that everyone has the potential to achieve what they want, given they put in hard work to do so. Without scholarships, thousands upon thousands of immigrant, poor, struggling, or simply lost students would not be able to contribute their great minds to the world. These students would have been kept behind a paywall, but education transcends economic class. Knowledge allows people’s voices to be heard, and scholarships do just that.”

Griffin Becker, a graduating senior at Centennial High School, wrote about how receiving a scholarship through The Foundation validated him in some way.

“Scholarships matter not only because they help to offset the increasingly high costs of a college education, but also because they are a third-party validation,” Becker said. “Earning a scholarship means that a standard was set and that I was able to meet and exceed that standard. This in turn makes me want to succeed not just for myself, but also to honor the organizations that have seen fit to generously award me with scholarships.”