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When Pablo Tutillo received a $1,000 scholarship from the Hispanic Alliance in 2011, he said the award showed him that there were people in the world willing to invest in him, and he wasn't going to let them down.
Tutillo, the youngest of six children, immigrated to New London from Cayambe, Ecuador, when he was 11. Now 22, he used the scholarship to fund his study of Arabic at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont during the summer before his sophomore year at Connecticut College.
The experience at Middlebury led him to a new path and opportunities. He decided that he would pursue a career in international relations, which has led him to travels to exotic parts of the world, including Alexandria, Egypt.
"Receiving the scholarship made me feel connected and proud of my Hispanic community in New London," Tutillo, who is completing a graduate certification in Middle East studies from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said via email. "Growing up in New London, a community that has a lot of social inequalities, it made me content that someone was investing not only in me but in the whole of our community. We need more investment in minds!"
The Hispanic Alliance will continue to invest in students like Tutillo when it awards 21 scholarships Friday at its annual gala at the Crocker House in New London.
Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, founder of the Hispanic Alliance, said it's the only scholarship fund in the region for Hispanics only.
Since the Hispanic Alliance started in 2000, it has awarded about $200,000 to more than 100 students, he said. The scholarship endowment is managed by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
"Some of these students are first-generation Americans so their parents are building up their wealth and don't have money to pay for their children's education," Melendez-Cooper said. "We give scholarships to students who show promise, who will give back to the community one day when they finish their education."
Tutillo added that the scholarship is important because it gives underrepresented students the opportunity to pursue an education.
"Many of us come from working-class families, from immigrant families, from families that have not had the resources to even finish high school," he said. "Our Hispanic community is growing in the United States, and we cannot stay behind, we must be prepared and educated to contribute to our communities."
According to 2010 Census figures, 23,214 Hispanic or Latinos lived in New London County, an increase of almost 10,000 since the last census count in 2000.
Tracee Reiser, associate dean for community learning at Connecticut College, who serves as the scholarship allocations committee chairwoman for the Hispanic Alliance, said the committee looks at various factors when deciding who will receive a scholarship. The scholarships have been in the range of $500, $1,000 and $4,000. This year, a total of $20,000 will be awarded.
She said the applicants must have a financial need, write an essay on what it means to be Latino or Hispanic, submit transcripts and recommendations, and explain how they are going to contribute to the community.
Reiser said she would like to see the scholarship grow because it helps create equity in a community that faces unique challenges.
"I think everyone who would like to have a college education should have a college education," Reiser said. "I don't think anyone should be denied because they don't have the financial resources to do it, and the scholarship fund helps with that."
What: Hispanic Alliance annual gala
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Crocker House, New London
Tickets: $75 online at www.hispanicalliance.net or at the door