AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local high school graduates, many of whom will be first-generation college students, were awarded $25,000 scholarships to pursue higher education through a new fund at the Austin Community Foundation.

The Sheth Sangreal Scholarship Fund was created this year to support “the economic security and financial needs of Central Texas students that demonstrate high academic achievement,” a press release stated.

“With rising costs of college tuition and the potential burden of student debt, pursuing a college degree is out of reach for so many students in our region,” said Brian Sheth. “With the Sheth Sangreal Scholarship Fund, we are investing in the leaders of tomorrow by providing a pathway for young adults, regardless of their background or financial status, to reach their educational dreams. We are proud to support and empower the 20 Central Texas students selected for this year’s scholarship awards.”

All of the students selected to receive the scholarship graduated high school in Central Texas. 90 percent are students of color or two or more races, 70 percent are female, and 65 percent are first-generation college students.

The average total cost, including tuition and required fees, plus room and board, at a public in-state, four-year university in Texas was $18,711 in the 2019-20 school year, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. A private four-year institution in Texas cost $48,032 on average that school year.

One of the scholarship recipients expressed gratitude for the award, saying that the funds will help him get the education he needs to help low-income families in the future.

Antonio Macedo Gonzalez graduated from Austin Achieve High School and will attend the University of Texas at Austin this fall.

“Throughout my whole life, financial stability has been a harsh obstacle my family and I have had to face,” Gonzalez said. “Once I received this scholarship, everything changed for the better. I can put all of my attention on becoming an accountant and helping lower-income communities achieve financial stability. For that, I cannot thank you enough. You have changed the trajectory of my life.”

Another recipient, Lamisa Mahmud, who graduated from Pflugerville High School, will attend Harvard University in the fall.

“This scholarship will help me pay for my education at Harvard and achieve the dreams I’ve worked so hard for. Also, instead of working long hours and worrying about student debt, I’ll be able to devote more time to the challenging course load that accompanies my desired major, neuroscience, to take advantage of all my resources,” Mahmud said. “Receiving this scholarship serves as the helping hand I need to achieve my goals, something that will greatly ease my stress during college and help me focus on how to improve the lives of others as an aspiring pediatric psychiatrist.” 

The scholarship application opens in the fall each year and awards are announced in the spring.