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Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Rodeo rides down student debt with scholarships


President and Chancellor Renu Khator has improved the relationship between the University system and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which sent President and CEO Joel Cowley to February’s rodeo scholar luncheon with Chairman of the Board Jack Lyons. | Courtesy of UH Office of Alumni Relations

Students hoping to earn a scholarship could benefit from the improved relationship between the University of Houston System and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which resulted in a large group of officials attending the yearly rodeo scholar luncheon hosted by UH in February.

UH and HLSR’s rapport has improved significantly since Renu Khator became president and chancellor of the University system. The number of rodeo officials at this year’s luncheon was significantly higher than before Khator’s term, according to Nancy Clark, the director of legacy programs at UH’s Office of Alumni Relations. Previously, only four or five rodeo officials would come. This year, approximately 27 attended, including President and CEO of HLSR Joel Crowley.

“Where our name ends, the rodeo’s name begins,” Clark said. “We are the University of Houston; they are the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We are important partners in the business of helping students achieve their dreams of higher education. Student excellence is such an important focus at the University of Houston, and what we find is that the rodeo has that same focus.”

Besides its concerts, carnival and the rodeo itself, the HLSR is a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization, according to its website. It offers scholarships to Texas students, whom it calls “rodeo scholars” and promotes agricultural education and “the breeding, raising and marketing of better livestock and farm products,” according to its mission statement.

“A rodeo scholar is awarded a rodeo scholarship, and then they get to take it to any Texas college or university,” Clark said.

According to the website, HLSR has donated nearly $430 million to support Texas youth. The UH system has 307 students with scholarships from the rodeo, most of whom attend the main campus, Clark said.

One of the scholars that spoke at the luncheon was Leen Basharat, a liberal studies sophomore. Had it not been for her rodeo scholarship, Basharat says she would not be able to attend school. In addition to the college money they receive, Basharat said rodeo scholars get a lifetime membership to the rodeo and a seat on one of over 200 HLSR committees after they graduate.

Basharat said that Clark frequently takes scholars to events to speak about their experiences.

“She lets us know about specific events, and we go and just tell them about ourselves and tell them what difference the rodeo scholarships made for us,” Basharat said.

Basharat, who won her scholarship during her senior year of high school, will receive $18,000 over her four years in college.

Every scholar is paired with a donor so the donor can interact with the individuals their charity is helping. Basharat said the scholars write thank you letters to their donors every semester. 

Michelle Tran, a computer science and math sophomore and rodeo scholar, was awarded the HLSR Metropolitan Scholarship. She credits her high school career counselor.

Tran said that attending college would have been much harder without the scholarship.

“My dad had lost his job,” Tran said. “He’s kinda the breadwinner of the family, so for a while we were debating on whether I should go to one of to one of the satellite schools because it’s cheaper, or a community college. That was really frustrating for me.”

Tran also spoke at the February luncheon and how the scholarship affected her life. Tran says it has enabled her to succeed in school.

“It’s nice to hear back from the recipients, you know?” Tran said. “We do have a connection to the actual donors.”

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