At Southwest Airlines, we demonstrate our purpose by Loving People, building resilience, and living responsibly to ensure the communities we serve flourish and grow. The !Lánzate!/Take Off! Travel Award Program is a unique program that provides students the opportunity to discover higher education pathways while remaining connected to their families.
Through this national education initiative, Southwest in partnership with Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) helps college students stay connected to their families while pursuing higher education. Since 2004, Southwest has helped more than 1,500 students soar by awarding roundtrip tickets through this travel grants program and we’re excited to support 175 students for the 2020-2021 school year. Without this opportunity to remain connected to their families, many may find it difficult to complete their college career and achieve their goals.
Juan Rios was a 2019 and 2020 ¡Lánzate!/ Award Recipient. Enjoy Juan’s story of how Southwest helped him stay connected to his family even during the coronavirus pandemic.
The following is written by Juan Rios, a 2020 ¡Lánzate!/Take Off! Travel Award recipient:
On April 24, 2019, I was admitted into my dream school, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After three years of late nights in the library as a community college Juan and his family enjoying some time together.student, it felt like my hard work had finally paid off. But when my acceptance letter came, I was instantly faced with the same problem that caused me to attend a community college in the first place. I was scared to leave my mom and my little sister behind.
As a unit of three, my family formed a close bond where we felt we all worked as a team to overcome the obstacles of life. Whether it was my mom working both a night-shift and a separate day job, or my sister and I working hard in school to show her that we were worth all her hard work, we always felt like we had each other’s backs. To leave them behind felt like I was abandoning them.
A couple of days after the admission, I received an email from HACU and Southwest Airlines to apply to the ¡Lánzate!/Take Off! Travel program and without hesitation I applied. I was excited HACU was partnering with Southwest to offer this opportunity - especially since as a guitar player, I had heard excellent things about Southwest’s care for musical instruments.
This award turned 500 long miles into an hour-and-a-half flight. I instantly felt significantly better about leaving for college. My first year began with exciting news, my research paper that I wrote was accepted for publication at a national conference in November 2019. This was a great opportunity to present in front of industry professionals and highly-esteemed academics. The catch was that the conference was in Orlando, Florida and they did not offer to reimburse travel costs.
The ¡Lánzate! Award allowed me to quickly book a flight and avoid missing an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Without it, I would not have met professionals that would later open doors for me to develop my professional career even further. In December I was also able to go home for winter break, and in January I still made it to my little sister’s birthday, without feeling a financial consequence of the national conference on my family’s finances.
More seriously, when the pandemic began, the ¡Lánzate! Award allowed me to quickly head home while the pandemic progressed.
Now as a recipient for the second time for the 2020-2021 school year, I continue to be extremely grateful for HACU and Southwest for supporting students throughout difficult times.