The Greater Oro Valley Chamber Foundation presented the $1,500 Steve Engle Award, a one-time academic scholarship, to six students this year from Northwest Tucson.
Recipients Ivana De La Rosa, Alanis Dilic, Beth Froio, Maya Horner, Harley Plasencio and Rachel Susco are all high school and college students eager to go to college and start a career for themselves.
Alanis Dilic, a 2020 graduate from Ironwood Ridge High School, said she could hardly contain her excitement when she found out she won the award.
“I was just very ecstatic and very humbled to have earned this award,” Dilic said. “This award is very significant for me.”
Dilic said it also meant a lot to receive an award that contains such a “noble background.” The award was founded for Steve Engle, one of the first mayors of Oro Valley, who used to give scholarships out of pocket for students in need, according to Dave Perry, president of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“When [Engle] passed, the chamber decided to take it on as an annual event to provide scholarships,” Perry said. “Some of it is just to carry on the legacy of one of Oro Valley’s founding fathers. … He must have been quite a man.”
According to Rachel Susco, a nursing student at Pima Community College, to apply one had to be a high school graduate from the northwest side and submit several essays.
“I had to fill out three different essays, one about why I needed the scholarship, … and then they wanted an essay about what you’re doing in school, … and then the last essay was about your volunteer work,” Susco said.
After the students submitted their applications, a volunteer committee reviewed them and then decided who the recipients would be, according to Perry. Although he himself does not take part in the selection process, Perry said some of the stories the students share on their applications were heart-rending.
“Every year there are remarkable stories of people overcoming hardships and really trying to pursue a dream,” Perry said.
Maya Horner, an IRHS graduate, said the scholarship was going to help her do just that.
“I was just hoping for every bit of support that I could to kind of make my dreams come true to go to college,” said Horner, who plans to study anthropology, archeology, sociology and Spanish at Northern Arizona University. “This just really supported my journey of getting to college and getting to study what I want to. I was definitely very happy when that happened.”
For some recipients, the scholarship could not have come at a better time.
“It’s just purely wonderful how in the situation with the virus that, really, the community is able to help the class of 2020,” said Beth Froio, a 2020 graduate from Mountain View High School.
Part of the reason why Froio decided to apply for this particular scholarship was its close connection with their community.
“I feel like [local scholarships] are just so much more personal,” Froio said. “It is directly your community that you’re asking for help, and they are giving you this support and it feels wonderful.”
Froio said they plan to study environmental and civil engineering at the University of Arizona and that the scholarship will help them pay for the various expenses college brings beyond tuition.
Susco said she was overall honored and inspired to be a recipient of the award.
“I definitely want to fund scholarships when I’m able to,” Susco said. “It’s inspired me to give back to the people in the community.”
Sam Burdette is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.