Home Local News Centro Hispano’s Becas Luncheon an Inspiring Celebration of Higher Education

Centro Hispano’s Becas Luncheon an Inspiring Celebration of Higher Education


One of the greatest obstacles that young Latino scholars face when it comes to pursuing higher education is the cost. For many young DREAMers, this barrier is exacerbated due to the fact that they are ineligible for in-state tuition at many colleges. Scholarships can provide a big boost to a student and that will be the impetus for Centro Hispano of Dane County’s 2019 Becas (Scholarships) Luncheon this Saturday, Dec. 7 at the UW Discovery Building.

“I’m always a proponent of giving to causes that are close to your heart – especially during this time of year,” Karen Menendez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano, tells Madison365. “The scholarship fund is definitely one that I feel strongly about especially with the so many barriers that are put on our families in Wisconsin and for young people to seek higher education based on their status.”

The 2019 Becas Luncheon is truly one of the joyous and inspirational events held in Madison.

“That’s what’s really nice about the Becas Luncheon – having dedicated time to family and friends and community … there will be people from the university there, too. It’s that sense of knowing that there is a whole community behind you and that you matter no matter what anybody may say,” Menendez Coller says. “It lets young people know that we believe in them and that we’re just here to make sure that any barrier that’s in front of you is not an obstacle that you can’t overcome.”

(L-r) Gilberto Osuna-Leon, Alondra Quechol, and Karen Pérez-Wilson hold their Becas at last year’s event.

Brunch will be served at the event courtesy of Steenbock’s on Orchard.

For more than two decades, Centro Hispano has presented scholarships to deserving students at its annual Centro Hispano Banquet.

“This is the second year that we’ve hosted a separate celebration for our scholarship recipients,” Menendez Coller says. “In the past, it’s been part of our annual Gala. But we wanted to have a dedicated time for our scholars and their families to really celebrate and have fun.

“We really enjoy having it on campus, versus at Centro, because we want to make sure that our communities are in different spaces and that we are part of the fabric of life in Madison,” Menendez Coller adds.

The Becas Program Endowment Fund was officially launched in 2016 with the generous support of donors and the American Family Insurance Dream Foundation. Scholarships, available to students who have participated in Centro’s programs, are used to help cover the cost of higher education.

“In 2016, we really decided to make it a program,” Menendez Coller says. “The majority of these kids have been with us since middle school and we’re just telling them with these scholarships that we are going to keep supporting them on their journey.

“A dream would be to grow this pot of money so we could open it up to even more [students,] but right now we’re doing what we can with what we have …. Which I believe is a significant amount.

Students from Centro’s Becas Scholarship Program at West High School.

The screening of students for both of these scholarship awards happens every fall. Centro generally awards an average of two to four $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors, and two $5,000 scholarships to students already enrolled in college to help them complete their studies. Menendez Coller says that Centro is excited to be giving out a record number of awards this year.

“We have five high school recipients and we have three currently enrolled college scholarship recipients,” Menendez Coller. “It’s a really fun celebration. Our goal is to give them as much money as we can. We set minimum goals to reach [for the scholarships] but our goals are always to exceed that.”

At the luncheon, Centro will be announcing the amount that each of the scholars will be receiving.

“Last year’s Beca’s Luncheon was so special because the program is relatively short and the scholars each get to say a few words and the college scholars speak from the heart to their younger peers,” Menendez Coller remembers. “Everybody takes the most beautiful family photos and spends time networking. I get a chance to be in the community and celebrate. It’s very low-key, but it is a special, meaningful, thoughtful, and inspiring celebration.”

The event is sold out, but if you are interested in giving to or supporting the Becas Fund, click here.

“Our youth coordinators are all involved in this and our scholarship committee leads the charge in fundraising and the development of this event,” Menendez Coller says. “It is so meaningful and it just touches the heart.

“For us at Centro, the young people and the work we do with youth are so important because we really are going to be the future of this community,” she adds.

Centro Hispano of Dane County’s 2019 Becas (scholarships) Luncheon will be held Saturday, Dec. 7th 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Discovery Building, 330 North Orchard Street.