Because of the generosity of both W. Hibbett Neel, P.E. (H) and Ken Voigt, P.E. (H) the ITE Diversity Scholar Program Committee has been able to select a second diversity scholar. Sebastian Velasquez from Houston, TX, USA is our second 2019 diversity scholar. Sebastian recently graduated from high school with a 3.5 GPA, and is planning to major in civil engineering at Texas A&M Kingsville. In Sebastian’s personal statement and through his teacher recommendations, we were provided a glimpse into Sebastian’s resiliency.
Sebastian’s family lost their home in Hurricane Harvey. With such a traumatic loss, his ability to attend school was difficult. This personal adversity did not prevent Sebastian from excelling in AP classes and graduating on time, while at the same time taking on the responsibility of rebuilding his family home. According to his teacher, “He was the one that took full responsibility to rebuild the entire house on his own and his dad would come home after his 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. job to continue to help him, for which Sebastian said, "My dad would come home tired from work and I knew that I could use all of my skills such as framing, placing sheet rock, painting, and many more things to reconstruct our home. The result has been remarkable!”
Sebastian wants to study transportation and become a civil engineer so that he can improve his city, provide for his family, and help others have a better life. We are so happy to be able to support Sebastian through the scholars program. The ITE Diversity Scholars Program is intended to help first generation college students and provides multi-faceted support: mentoring, internships, ITE student chapter participation, and $4,000 in annual tuition support for up to 5 years of undergraduate work.
Seeing the opportunity to make a difference in Sebastian’s life, Hibbett and Ken, ITE Honorary Members and members of the Diversity Scholars Committee, stepped up to support Sebastian through ITE Legacy Gift donations. They have each agreed to provide up to $10,000 in support of this program, to help Sebastian with his undergraduate tuition costs. Their generosity stands as a testimony to their ongoing commitment to support young people, especially those with serious financial needs, to become transportation professionals.
“It is inspiring to see past ITE presidents and long-time leaders like Hibbett and Ken step up to support this program in such a significant way. Smaller donations to the ITE Legacy Fund from members at-large, when pooled together, are also making a difference. I hope all ITE members consider making a contribution to this worthwhile effort. The Diversity Scholars Program is in its infancy, but it is clear that the need is great and the opportunity for ITE members to make a difference in young people’s lives is significant.” said Jeff Paniati, ITE Executive Director and CEO.