The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and Southwest Airlines are thrilled to continue their partnership to provide opportunities for college students to travel home to see family. HACU is accepting applications for the 14th annual "¡Lánzate! / Take Off!" Program. The program is geared toward Latino college students with economic need who pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at least 200 miles from home. Recipients are awarded a designated number of roundtrip tickets provided by Southwest to travel home to see family.
Christine Ortega, Southwest Airlines Senior Advisor of Community Affairs & Grassroots, highlights the value a family visit can have on a student’s decision to stay in school.
“We know that college can be an amazing experience, but it can also be very difficult,” said Ortega. “Many of our participants have told us the travel award helped keep them in school as opposed to dropping out because they missed their home and family. At Southwest, we are passionate about connecting people to what’s important in their lives and proud that we can play a small role in helping so many Latino students fulfill their dreams.”
The following excerpt is from former ¡Lánzate! Recipient, Emily Rojas, about her experience being awarded the 2017-2018 travel program and her trip returning home for the holidays.
More than fifty million Americans travel around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and until recently, I wasn’t one. When I moved from California to attend college across the country in Washington D.C., I always assumed I was going to travel back home for the holidays. However, when my family and I realized how much it would financially cost us for me to go back home, we knew it wasn’t something we could afford.
For some, it may not be a big deal to miss one holiday with their family, but for me, growing up Hispanic means growing up as a family and being there for one another. By the time I reached my sophomore year, I had accepted the fact that I could not afford to go home as often as I once hoped. I could not help but constantly think about my family.
A few months after this realization, I discovered an email sent from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) that encouraged me to apply to “¡Lanzate! Premio Universitario de Southwest Airlines,” a national education initiative and Travel Award Program that helps undergraduate and graduate students who travel away from home to pursue higher education. I immediately filled out the application and hoped for the best.
In July, I received an email from HACU congratulating me on being selected as a recipient and was awarded with two roundtrip e-passes to use when traveling to or from my university. I made sure to save one for Thanksgiving so I could return home for the holiday.
After two years away, I returned home for the Thanksgiving holiday to enjoy my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner filled with barbecue ribs, turkey, and my grandmother’s hot chocolate. It was time well spent with my family and I cannot express how wonderful it was to be home. Although the trip was short, it’s something I will always remember and be forever grateful for thanks to HACU and Southwest. When I returned to school in D.C., not only did I come back with a full stomach, but I came back more prepared and ready to finish my fall semester with a better attitude.
Out of 6,044 applicants, more than 1,020 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees have been awarded 2,186 roundtrips since the program's inception in 2005.
Applications for the 14th annual "¡Lánzate! / Take Off!" Program are currently open until April 13, 2018. To learn more about the program and apply, visit www.hacu.net.
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