It was a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of Sanchez Scholars and to welcome the new freshman class for 2019 as the community gathered to honor outstanding Latino students at the Annual Sánchez Scholars Celebration on Sunday, June 9 at Madison College. 

Retired UW-Madison Professor Roberto Sánchez initially established a scholarship fund at the Madison Community Foundation in collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to inspire academic excellence by local Latino/a youth and to build a pathway for those in high school and postsecondary institutions to achieve their academic dreams.

“The unique thing about this event is that we’re celebrating all three Sánchez programs – Madison schools, Madison College, and UW-Madison,” Kathy Price, MMSD Scholarship Programs Coordinator, tells Madison365.  “In his wisdom, Professor Roberto Sánchez crafted the structure to have a pathway for students.”

Sánchez Scholars with Lucia Nunez (far right)
(Photo: Hedi Lamarr Photography)

Students become Sánchez Scholars based upon 8th-grade recommendations. Madison Community Foundation houses the high school-level scholarship program.

“They are with us during high school and Professor Sánchez also created funds to support scholarships at Madison College and UW-Madison,” Price says.

As an example of community collaboration, Centro Hispano also works with the UW Roberto G. Sanchez Scholarship program to provide academic scholarships for deserving Latino youth.

Price says that the vision driving the Sánchez Scholars program is Professor Sánchez’s goal to honor his parents’ belief in the power of education and his love of his Latino heritage.

“Professor Sánchez sought to support first-generation fully bilingual Latino/a students in their academic pursuits, and crafted a trajectory from high school to technical college to four-year university, the same pathway he took as a young scholar before leaving Texas to complete his Ph.D. at the UW-Madison,” Price said. “He was fortunate to see the success of this pathway before his death in 2016.”

Cinthia Diaz Moron, a 2019 Sanchez Scholar graduate, celebrates with her parents.


The Friends of Sánchez Scholars, a non-profit formed in 2017, seeks to strengthen the ties between and among the three institutions offering Sánchez scholarships, Price says, and the goals are for students to experience success at every point in their academic careers and benefit from the collaboration created when families, staff and community advocates partner in advancing educational dreams.

Speakers at the Annual Sánchez Scholars Celebration included Lucia Nunez of Madison College and Alison Rice of UW-Madison.

Rice told the audience that Professor Sánchez started the UW-Madison Sánchez scholars program in 2010-2011 and that 10 students have attended UW-Madison with this support.

“Without the strong foundation built by MMSD and Madison College this program would not exist. We thank our community partners for their stewardship of Professor Sánchez’s vision,” Rice said. “We must recognize the contributions of Professor Ivy Corfis (Spanish), Kathy Price and Lesli Vasquez-Vargas (MMSD), Marion Brown (UW Foundation), Rachelle Eilers (Latinx Studies) and Dr. Gerardo Mancilla (Edgewood College) in providing guidance and support to UW-Madison Sánchez scholars. We are so proud of this year’s graduates, Karen Perez-Wilson and Diana Benitez Pérez. We look to the future with current scholars Gilberto Osuna Léon and Rocío Velásquez.”

Lucia Nunez speaks at the Annual Sánchez Scholars Celebration June 9. (Photo: Hedi Lamarr Photography)


“At this annual celebration, we finally see through the current Sanchez Scholars, the fruition of Professor Sanchez’s vision and dream … UW-Madison graduates who started out as high school as Sanchez Scholars and attended Madison College,” Nunez tells Madison365. “His legacy is alive in each of the Scholars honored and as a community, we collectively benefit from that legacy. “

Crisanto Arce Pineda and Gisela Tlahuextl were also honored at the event. They are the very first recipients of the María del Rosario Covarrubias Scholarship, established just before her passing in June of last year.

Crisanto Arce Pineda and Gisela Tlahuextl

The high school Sánchez program has a 100% graduation rate, and seniors enroll in post-secondary at higher than average rates for similar students.

Lesli Vasquez, coordinator of the high school Sánchez Scholars Program, told Madison365 that “I don’t see these Scholars as future leaders because I know they already are.”

“How can I not get emotional when I hear the sigh of relief in our Scholars’ voices?  When they finally feel the reward after the struggle?” Vasquez said. “To see the pride they feel when they have the opportunity to share with the world, that they are the first in their family to complete high school, and go on to college.
“The Sánchez Scholars Annual Celebration was definitely the place to see legacy in action,” she added. “I left inspired and energized to continue the work that very generous people in our community entrusted us to do.”

The Sánchez Scholar Graduation event really brings it home for the proud parents as they get to see firsthand how it helps their children move towards a bright future.

“That is just so powerful to see parents with the scholars at the event.  There are opportunities for students to gather throughout the year – Lesli [Vasquez] does a wonderful job of bringing in people to work with families to keep kids on track academically, problem-solving, etc. There is a Sánchez community in that regard,” Price says. “But when they are all in one room like they were this weekend and parents see students graduating from Madison College and UW-Madison, I think that really all brings it together in terms of what our hopes and dreams are for these kids. They see that it’s successful and they see that it’s working. That aspect of it is so powerful.”