‘Somos Familia,’ or we are family is the theme for this year’s 2018 Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) Gala. The organization has given out thousands of scholarships to Latinos since 1949, and the gala is a celebration of LAEF scholars and alumni.
“(The Somos Familia theme is) really quite fitting. LAEF is like a family. It actively supports its families. We’re a supporter, we’re a counselor, we’re a motivator and we’re an encourager of Latinos and Hispanics,” Jim Chavez, Executive Director of LAEF said.
Chavez knows first hand how important scholarship money is, in helping students achieve their educational goals. Although he didn’t personally receive a scholarship from LAEF, he did receive numerous other community scholarships that helped him attend Colorado State University. He wanted to get involved with LAEF because he knew how important scholarships are and because his family had always been involved with community service.
“It’s fair to say that there are hundreds of successful doctors, lawyers, educators and engineers contributing to our country, and LAEF helped them get to school,” Chavez said. “LAEF is even more important today because of the need to educate our Hispanic population. This current generation, and for the future, we need our residents to be educated. The Hispanic population is very unrepresented in the number of degrees we hold. We need to make sure to do all we can to make sure that they are earning degrees.”
Don Mares, former LAEF President, has been involved with LAEF since his youth. His mother, Priscilla Mares, was the head of the organization when he was growing up, and he helped her with LAEF’s events.
One of Mares’ most treasured memories when he was LAEF’s president was when he received a phone call from a doctor in rural Colorado. The doctor called to say that Mares’ mother had personally interviewed him for a scholarship to get a microscope. The doctor expressed sincerity and said the microscope was what he needed to become a doctor.
“I get goose bumps when I think of that story. To this day (LAEF) is a similar model where they still really take the time to personally learn the stories of these young people. LAEF provides some very important glue to help these students make it through. It’s such a wonderful organization,” Mares said.
This year’s LAEF Gala will be held on March 10 at the Fillmore Auditorium. Those who attend can expect a night filled with live entertainment, dancing and dinner. To purchase tickets, and for more information, visit laef.org.
“I think LAEF is incredibly important and very, very relevant. As the oldest Hispanic organization in the state, still today people look at us as the most established institution. That means it is a very trusted organization, especially in today’s political climate. People throughout our community and state, they very much look to LAEF and trust that we’ll be an advocate to students, for families and education issues,” Chavez said.