Thursday, June 27, 2013

Volunteerism and family drive MC grad to succeed

By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events 

During Irma Bueno’s senior year at Midland High School, her father was diagnosed with renal failure. Irma knew that the most important thing she could do for her father — who never got any further in his education than elementary school — would be to complete high school. So, she persisted and graduated in 2008 with honors.

“It was at Midland High that I learned about the Legacy Scholarship,” explained Bueno. “I wanted to go to college but there was no way my family could afford it. I was already a member of Midland High’s Students in Philanthropy [SIP] club, and I knew about the importance of giving back to nonprofit agencies. The 40-hour volunteer requirement did not deter me in the least. I volunteered at the Soup Kitchen and with Christmas for Our Troops.”

Since 1986, the Midland's Legacy Scholarship Program has provided tuition assistance to Midland County high school graduates who attend Midland College. The scholarship is built on the legacy left by four great Midland families — Gladys and George Abell, Helen and Barney Greathouse, Harriet and J. Harvey Herd and the Clarence Scharbauer Family — who invested their time and resources to help build Midland into the community that it is today. The philosophy of these community builders ensures that graduates of Midland County high schools are able to continue to take advantage of higher education at Midland College. In return for the scholarship, which pays their tuition and fees, students volunteer community service hours with an approved Midland non-profit organization.

Bueno continued to volunteer with the non-profit agencies throughout her two years at Midland College and transferred her SIP membership to Midland College Students In Philanthropy. She explained, “Being involved in SIP helped me to adjust to college life. I was pretty overwhelmed when I first started taking classes at MC, but the instructors and staff were so accommodating. They encouraged me to get ‘connected.’ I would definitely say that Midland College has a ‘user-friendly’ environment.”

While she was at MC, Bueno became involved in student activities, made good grades and enjoyed college life. She was able to finance her college tuition through the Legacy Scholarship and the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship. Her father was undergoing dialysis and was awaiting a kidney transplant. Then, suddenly, during Irma’s last semester at MC, the same disease that affected her father’s kidneys spread to his lungs; he was hospitalized and removed from the kidney transplant list, with little hope for recovery. “There were times during that last semester when I didn’t think I could continue with my studies,” said Bueno. “I was working in the Community Programs Continuing Education office at MC in order to earn some money to help me afford to stay in school, and I was taking a full load of courses so that I could graduate.”

Bueno credits her parents, siblings, friends and MC faculty and staff with giving her the love and encouragement to continue that last semester. She received an associate of arts degree from Midland College in 2010 and transferred to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB). Because of the connections she made while at Midland College, Bueno was able to fund her studies at UTPB with the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship and the Abell-Hanger Foundation Education Continuance Scholarship, both of which are awarded to deserving Midland College students in order to continue their studies.

Bueno said, “Words cannot express how grateful I am to those private foundations for their belief in me and their willingness to provide financial assistance for my education. I don’t think people realize the opportunities provided by starting their higher education at Midland College. Because of the scholarships I received while at MC and then by graduating from MC and transferring to a university, I was able to graduate with my bachelor’s degree completely debt free! Had I not gone to Midland College, I may not have had the resources to complete a baccalaureate degree, or at the very least, I would probably be starting my career owing money in student loans.”

A native Midlander, 23-year-old Bueno said she truly enjoys working in the non-profit sector and helping to improve the quality of life for West Texans. During her senior year at UTPB, Bueno worked as an intern for Casa de Amigos in Midland. She now works as a client advocate for Safe Place, where she assists victims of domestic violence and their children.

Bueno stated, “The minute I stepped in the doors of Safe Place for that initial interview, I knew this was the place for me.”

She continues to live in Midland with her parents. Her father recovered from his lung illness, and in April of 2012 he received the long-awaited kidney transplant from an anonymous donor at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Her mother is employed as a housekeeper.

Irma’s two older siblings, Ruben and Ana are also products of Midland College. The family of five—six, if you include their beagle named Bruno—enjoy spending time with each other. Irma said that after almost having lost her dad, the family feel blessed to be able to continue to be together.

Irma said, “I’m not sure we will ever know who my father’s kidney donor is. We were told it was a young person. I know that his or her family has suffered a great loss, but I hope they realize that in even the darkest hour, there’s always a chance for happiness. Because of their loved one’s gift, my father is able to live.”

“My parents are my true drive,” continued Bueno. “They are my rock and my strength. Neither of them graduated from high school, and they always wanted more for their children. Despite my mom working long hours and my father being sick, they never missed attending my school events and high school and college graduations. They participated in everything—even the SIP fundraisers! My diplomas are as much theirs as they are mine.”

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