by Shellie Burton Evans, Retired School Counselor
The Ruth and Bill Burton Scholarship Fund was started about 15 years ago to honor my parents. When my father left money to the Community Foundation at his passing, I was charged with the job of deciding how to best set up the funds to support the causes they loved. I knew that I wanted to do something with scholarships since during their lifetime my parents helped many students attend college.
The first time my parents supported someone wanting to pursue college was after the passing of my brother. My brother was killed in a car accident at the very end of his senior year in high school. They used the money they had saved for my brother’s college to help one of his friends attend college. Soon after, my parents began funding a number of students’ education. When I decided to start the scholarship fund at the Community Foundation of Abilene, I worked closely with the president at the time. We met many times to discuss how the scholarship should be set up and what type of student the scholarship should benefit.
Soon after my meeting, I had an epiphany about the type of student I wanted the scholarship to benefit. I was at the grocery store when I encountered a student that I had known while I was serving as a school counselor at Ortiz Elementary. She had been a very good student and I knew she was likely attending college at that time. When we talked about what she was doing, she told me she had dropped out of Cisco Junior College and was working at two jobs in order to earn the money needed to eventually return back to school. I knew immediately that this was the kind of student I wanted to be able to help. She did become one of our first scholarship recipients and went on to graduate from San Angelo State University with an accounting degree.
During the 15 years that we have granted scholarships from this fund, we have watched many worthy students achieve their goals and become successful. I wish I could say that every student who received a scholarship eventually graduated from college, but this is not always the case. However, the students that have worked and achieved their goals have made it an exciting journey. One thing I always enjoy is maintaining a relationship with the scholarship recipients during their time in college. Marco Marquez is one of the students I have had the opportunity to get to know through this scholarship process. He recently completed his first year at the University of Texas and during this year’s scholarship reception, he imparted some meaningful words to other students preparing to enter in to college,
“There’s always going to be someone smarter than you, more talented or more accomplished but it is all about truly being the best you can be!”
Often, maintaining these relationships with the students has given me the opportunity to encourage them when things seem tough and to celebrate with them during their successes. Marco is just one example of the type of students the scholarship fund supports. Being able to build connections and work with students through the scholarship process has enabled me to carry on my parent’s legacy and has been very fulfilling for me.