CMAS banquet spotlights AAP, honors retired director Tatcho Mindiola
The Center for Mexican-American Studies held its 19th Annual Noche Cultural Scholarship Banquet Friday with special guest speaker John Quiñones, broadcast journalist and host of ABC’s What Would you Do?.
The event had a silent auction, which featured a basket of Goya products, Dynamo tickets for a 2016 home game and a UH football helmet and ball signed by the players. Proceeds from the auction and the dinner go toward the Academic Achiever’s Program.
The AAP consists of two groups –one for students at Stephen F. Austin High School and the other for UH students. The purpose of the program is to increase student retention and graduation through scholarships, mentoring, career guidance and leadership training.
The program was established at UH in 1994 and, in September, was recognized as a national “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education” by The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Quiñones said programs like the AAP are a lifeline to help students better prepare for college. He attended Southwestern University and then Columbia Journalism School. He said that when he went to New York to visit the Columbia campus, he knocked on every financial aid door at the school.
“When I was a kid, I was told I would never make it at college,” Quiñones said. “I was told to take metalshop and woodshop courses in high school.”
Quiñones said there was nothing wrong with those types of classes, but they just weren’t for him.
“I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to go to college,” Quiñones said. “My counselors didn’t believe I had what it took. Can you imagine if I had listened to what they said?”
The banquet also featured testimonials from two AAP students, finance senior Cynthia Vasquez and Austin High School senior Marcelo Martinez. Martinez will be attending UH in the fall and plans to pursue a civil engineering degree.
Vasquez said she was surprised she was chosen to give her testimonial, but has always aspired to give one at the CMAS banquets.
“It was an incredible feeling, and it shows the amount of support they have for me, and how much they admire me for what I’ve been able to accomplished,” Vasquez said.
The AAP currently has 81 students. Vasquez said students should take advantage of the program. This past summer, Vasquez was awarded an internship in the summer with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in New York City.
“You never know how those programs can get you connected into something you really want,” Vasquez said. “This program is really a blessing to anybody who becomes a part of it.”
The banquet also included a tribute to former CMAS director, Tatcho Mindiola. Mindiola retired in August and was the director of CMAS for 34 years. AAP Manager Rebeca Treviño said it was hard to convince Mindiola to take the tribute, but she was glad that he did.
“Dr. Mindiola has touched so many lives during his 34 years of service to CMAS and the University that he deserved to be recognized by his commitment to students and the community,” Treviño said.
CMAS Associate Director Lorenzo Cano knew Mindiola before he was at UH and said that he and Mindiola both knew this wasn’t just a job or a way to make a living.
“This was, in fact, part of our passion of advocating on behalf of our community and providing opportunities for the Mexican-American and Latino communities, the young people out there, after we dedicated for so long for them to go to college,” Cano said.
Cano added that he and Mindiola made a great team in all aspects of Mexican-American studies “from the fundraising and the teaching of the classes and going out and talking to the community about the whole problematic of Mexican-Americans and their educational levels.”
Treviño said she felt very honored to have worked for Mindiola for 20 years and said he is a true leader and a great personal mentor.
“I always saw his commitment to CMAS and his dedication to educate our students,” Treviño said. “He cares about the educational future of our Hispanic students. He knew the needs, and he made a difference for everyone he worked with.”
Although Mindiola is retired, Cano said he is still involved to an extent.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to hang up the gloves and ride off into the sunset, so I’m happy that he’s still available and open to being involved of some of the things we’re doing, including of course this banquet.”
Mindiola said it should be the students –and not him –who should get the tribute.
“If you want to make us look good, graduate,” Mindiola said. “It’s a tribute of those who will come behind, that it can be done.”