This May, Joana Jardon, an Oak Cliff native, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in civil engineering. She was the first person in her extended family to earn a college degree.
Jardon grew up in North Dallas and Oak Cliff. Her parents, both immigrants from Mexico, worked hard, but money was always extremely tight. They never finished high school and wanted something better for their children, so they urged their three daughters to do well in school and go on to college. It worked.
Jardon’s achievement was made possible by her hard work and determination, and by financial aid, including The Dallas Foundation’s Jere W. Thompson Jr. Scholarship.
For more than 15 years, the Jere W. Thompson Jr. Scholarship has helped students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue degrees in civil engineering. Thompson’s colleagues and friends started the scholarship fund in 2001 to honor his service as founding chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority. Since its creation, the Thompson Scholarship has helped 17 undergraduates at Texas colleges and universities earn engineering degrees.
“It was a huge milestone for me to be able to go to college,” Joana said, adding that it’s a “huge relief” to be able to graduate without student debt. “My parents are super happy.”
In 2016, The Dallas Foundation awarded 635 scholarships totaling more than $1.8 million. Each scholarship fund was established by a donor, family or organization to help students pursue higher education and reach their full academic potential.
For Jessica Britt, the Hirsch Family Scholarship she received from The Dallas Foundation helped cover the cost of her education at Georgia Tech, where she will graduate with her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering this fall and earn her master’s degree in 2018.
Administered by The Dallas Foundation, the Hirsch Family Scholarship Fund benefits young people who have a parent who works for Eagle Materials or one of the companies under the Highlander Partners, L.P., umbrella. Larry Hirsch, chairman of Highlander Partners, wanted to help students who showed excellence, determination and focus.
“It’s always been important to the Hirsch family that we take care of and help provide opportunities for employees at companies where we have a presence,” said Hirsch’s daughter-in-law, Margaret Hirsch, president of the Hirsch Family Foundation. “We really respect people who have a strong work ethic.”
The scholarship turned out to be more important for Jessica than anyone could have imagined. During her freshman year, her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in 2015. Her mother, an employee of Highlander’s Lund International, became the family’s sole support.
“If I did not have the scholarship, I don’t know if I could have stayed at Georgia Tech,” Britt said.
Many donors choose to establish a scholarship with The Dallas Foundation to honor their loved ones, support the hard work of local students and help cultivate the next generation of community leaders.
The Dallas Foundation manages a variety of scholarship funds and provides donors with turnkey services to set up scholarships, draft criteria, coordinate applications, evaluate candidates and manage payment. For the students, the scholarships can be a valuable resource that allows them to achieve lifelong dreams. The Dallas Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships so far in 2017.
“It’s not just about the money,” Jardon said. “It’s about somebody else believing in us. It’s a great honor to receive this scholarship to help us make it through college and have a career afterward.”
To establish, donate to, or apply for a scholarship, visit dallasfoundation.org/scholarships.aspx.