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President?s Associates Ball aims to provide more scholarship opportunities at NMSU

Rigo Salazar has his dress shoes and his best suit ready. The New Mexico State University student, a double major in civil engineering and math, is looking forward to a night of dining, entertainment and celebration that will honor the donors whose gifts help NMSU attract and retain some of the state?s most academically talented students.


Young man with guitar
Rigo Salazar is one of 53 recipients of New Mexico State University?s most competitive academic scholarship, the President?s Associates Scholarship. A gala celebration planned for April will honor donors to the scholarship?s endowment. (NMSU photo)

Salazar is one of 53 students currently attending the university thanks to its most prestigious and competitive award, the President?s Associates Scholarship. NMSU leaders hope to raise an additional $50,000 for the scholarship by reviving a gala fundraising event planned for April 22, the President?s Associates Ball.

The PA Ball is also a chance for Salazar and other scholars to thank some of the people who have contributed to the scholarship, which has supported more than 300 scholars during its 37-year history.

?I want them to know that it really does mean a lot to me,? Salazar said. ?I?m very grateful that they are taking the opportunity to invest in me ? someone they?ve never met.?

Salazar just graduated from Arrowhead Early College High School in 2015, but has already earned enough credits through its dual-credit program to be technically classified as a junior at NMSU. He comes from a family of Aggie alums and said he?s extremely proud to have been selected for this highly competitive scholarship.

?My dad is a business man, and he expects us to work hard for ourselves and earn what we have,? Salazar said. ?Studying and maintaining my grades and my scholarship ? that?s my way of earning the education I?m receiving.?

The scholarship, which was established by late President Emeritus Gerald Thomas in 1978 as the university?s first leadership annual giving program, is awarded to select freshmen enrolling from high schools in New Mexico who have demonstrated their academic excellence. To be considered, students must have outstanding grades and test scores, along with extracurricular experiences that enhanced their high school learning.

Their high achievement is rewarded with a scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition and fees, plus an additional stipend of $1,625 for other educational and living expenses. Only 15 freshmen are currently selected each year, and the NMSU Foundation is working to build the scholarship?s endowment with additional gifts that will support more students like Salazar.

?These are some of the best, most dedicated students from counties across our state, and this scholarship helps us bring them to NMSU,? said Andrea Tawney, vice president for university advancement. ?Many of our students at NMSU come from humble beginnings, and they have tremendous potential. When we give these high achievers the tools to focus on their studies without worrying about money, it?s transformational. They discover so much about themselves and what they can do to change the world.?

Diana Seward, chair of the President?s Associates Board of Directors, said she?s excited to see the black-tie gala revived as one of the signature events for the community.

?It?s such a prestigious event, and our goal this year is to showcase not just the PA Scholars, but many other NMSU students and programs,? said Seward, who studied business at NMSU and is now a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Las Cruces. ?I really like the fact that it creates a connection between donors and scholars. It?s very personal.?

The PA Ball will take place at the Dona Ana Community College East Mesa Campus and will feature performances by student groups and food prepared and served by students in DACC?s culinary arts program. The event will also include a silent auction that offers tickets to NFL and MLB games, tickets and backstage tours at the Santa Fe and Dallas operas, vacation packages and other valuable items. The event?s platinum sponsor is U.S. Bank, along with gold sponsors Ashley Furniture Homestore, GenCon Corp./Jan and Mickey Clute, Hakes Brothers, Harris Corporation, Salopek 6U Farms, Sisbarro Dealerships/Lou and Pat Sisbarro and Wells Fargo.

Tawney said the PA Ball, which will be held in alternating years beginning this spring, is an opportunity for donors and members of the community to see how sincerely committed the scholars are to their studies and know that the future of New Mexico is in good hands.

?This is our chance to say thank you, and to show our generous donors what an amazing impact they are having in the lives of our top students,? she said. ?We also want to build momentum for the future of this scholarship by adding to the endowment, allowing us to recruit and retain even more of these high achievers each year.?

Salazar?s long-term goals include earning his doctorate and becoming a university professor. While working on his undergraduate degrees, he hopes to study abroad and become fluent in Spanish, hone his musical skills on the ukulele and a half-dozen other instruments, and perfect his dance moves. He said he?s looking forward to attending the PA Ball and personally thanking some of the people who have invested in him.

A limited number of tickets may still be available by calling 575-646-5567.

For more information about the President?s Associates Scholarship, visit http://admissions.nmsu.edu/scholarships.

SILENT AUCTION ITEMS
? A package including four VIP tickets to a New York Mets game, dinner for four in the Acela Club, a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium and passes to batting practice
? A vacation package including a pair of Arizona Diamondback MLB tickets and a two-night stay at the Wigwam Golf Resort in Phoenix
? A Dallas Arts Experience vacation package including a wine reception and pair of tickets to the Dallas Opera, as well as the Nasher Sculpture Garden and Perot Museum of Nature and Science and a $200 Southwest Airlines gift card
? A pair of Santa Fe Opera tickets with backstage tour and one-night stay at the Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda and Spa
? A pair of Arizona Cardinals NFL tickets
? A pair of Denver Broncos NFL tickets
? A suite for an El Paso Chihuahuas game
? A private dinner for 12 at the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine at NMSU
? A luxury private tour of St. Clair Winery and lunch for 10
? A two-night vacation package from Route 66 Casino and Resort
? A private Super Bowl Sunday party package at Club 27 at Aggie Memorial Stadium with $300 in Sodexo food credit