“Dreams are free, so dream big and dream often!”

That’s what María del Rosario Covarrubias would often say and her inspiring life has led to an educational movement and scholarship fund that has been started in her name here in Madison. Two outstanding students were recently selected by a committee to receive financial support from the María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund. In essence, Gisela Tlahuextl and Crisanto Arce Pineda have become the first two Covarrubias “Dream” Scholars.

This scholarship is managed by the Covarrubias Family with the help of Friends of Sánchez Scholars.

Covarrubias was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and managed to escape the harsh circumstances of her childhood – first to Chicago and then to Madison.

“Maria came to Madison at a time when resources for immigrants were very limited, and found ways to navigate as an English Language Learner and parent of five children,” Lesli Vazquez, a longtime coordinator for the Sánchez Scholars, tells Madison365. “She was big on family, education, and her Mexican heritage and was always grateful for the wisdom of her elders.

Lesli Vazquez

“Maria was an inspiration to many,” Vazquez continues. “She really hard time being an undocumented immigrant and not knowing any English. She sought resources in the community because she really wanted to break that cycle of poverty that she had lived in when she was young and she really wanted something better for her children.”

Covarrubias would go on to learn English and obtain her high school diploma and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She taught in the Madison Metropolitan School District for 30 years teaching at Chavez, Muir, Jefferson, Thoreau, and Heugel and receiving the “Distinguished Service Award.”

“What was great about Maria was that she really wanted people to know that it was hard, but it was possible to break the cycle of poverty,” Vasquez says.

The María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund, a new educational opportunity fund for Latino adults, was first announced at the annual Sánchez Scholars Celebration at Madison College in June. The idea to establish the María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund was born in April, as Covarrubias, unfortuanately, was bravely battling a degenerative pulmonary disease.

With the help of her sister and the magic of technology, Covarrubias was able to see her son Jorge Covarrubias and daughters Cinthya Díaz and Julie Rice share the news with guests at the celebration.

“That was very emotional and exciting. It was a good way to get the word out. Her friends and family – her older son and two daughters – was able to be there,” Vasquez says.

The inagural María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund scholarship winners are:

(L-r) Cindy Díaz, María’s oldest daughter and a Bilingual Resource Teacher at Huegel Elementary; Covarrubias Scholar Gisela Tlahuextl,; and Julie Rice, María’s youngest daughter.

Gisela Tlahuextl – Gisela will be joining the Madison College community this spring, where she will be completing coursework leading to a degree in Early Childhood Education. She is an immigrant mother of four, who has worked hard to set an example for her children to follow. She believes that early literacy is key in ensuring that our young students are successful in school. She is inspired by the many young students she has worked with throughout the years, and the desire and ability they have to learn.

Crisanto Arce Pineda – Becoming a father at a young age fueled Crisanto’s desire to succeed academically. He believes that receiving a good education will allow him to become a role model for his young son, and an asset in our community. He will continue his studies at Madison College this fall, in the Real Estate Sales Certificate Program. His hope is to one day be in a position to give back by supporting others dreaming of continuing their studies.

(L-r) Julie Rice, Covarrubias Scholar Crisanto Arce Pineda, and Cindy Díaz

Covarrubias was bed-ridden at this point, but she was able to see everything happening regarding the scholarship through FaceTime. “It was very meaningful to her because she was having a really hard time and this gave her some hope and some joy,” Vasquez says.

After a long and brave battle with lung disease, María del Rosario Covarrubias passed away peacefully at home in her sleep early Tuesday, June 26.

The María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund scholarship currently serves two students. The hope is that with community support it will grow and grow.

“The hope is that they can continue to fundraise for the scholarship because it is so helpful to our students,” Vazquez says. “Right now, the scholarship is anywhere between $500 and $1,000. I have full faith that the community will continue to support this important initiative.”

If you would like to contribute to the ongoing efforts to support Scholars, please follow this link to the donation page for the Friends of Sánchez Scholars through the Madison Community Foundation, and include the word DREAMS in the Gift Notes/Area of Support box: