AUSTIN (KXAN) - Nearly half a million dollars is going to local students, thanks to 44 scholarships from Rodeo Austin.
Along with the money, they'll take away some advice from a past recipient: Make the most of it.
Katherine Layton, a Human Development and Family Sciences major at the University of Texas, is the one telling them. She didn't think she had a shot at college. Her older sister attended UT, and Katherine always wanted to follow her. But her father died when she was 11 years old, and the money just wasn't there.
When pressed to explain why Rodeo Austin gave her their $8,000 gift, she revealed her charitable nature that made her stand out from other students.
"I've had over 1,000 hours of service in my lifetime, especially in high school," Katherine explained. "There were people who had less than I do -- even when my dad passed away. So, I volunteered at Dell Children's hospital ... started my own nonprofit ... shaved my head for the St. Baldrick's Foundation."
Disaster fueled her passion for giving in 2011. Katherine lost her home and cherished possessions in the Bastrop County wildfires last year. But she saw her friends and neighbors left with even less than she had and launched a new nonprofit, called Gifts from US .
"I'm going to tell the  scholarships recipients that they need to use their donors' money to the full advantage," said Katherine. "Not to look at me as an inspiration, but to look at me like a guide, a way to do things. A lot of people think, 'I have this money. I can do whatever I want with it -- spend it on a new purse or something.' No. This money is to help you be a better person."
Although Katherine got a full scholarship to UT, she's spending the gift from Rodeo Austin carefully.
"It means I have someone trusting in me," she said. "Whenever I can't trust myself, I know that someone's donating their money to me, and that's kind of a pick-me-up. So if I feel down about my grades, if I feel I'm not doing enough right now, then I'm like, 'Someone is trusting thousands of dollars to me, Katherine Layton.' And that's amazing."
Since 1981, Rodeo Austin has awarded $5.5 million in scholarships to Texas students. Rodeo Austin scholarship recipients are selected by their university or foundation based on financial need, academic performance and community involvement.
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