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Gilberto Chaidez Jr. – August 2010 Scholar of the Month

CHCI-Ford Scholar

Hometown: Aurora, IL

School: BS, Civil Engineering

Major: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

1. What field of study do you intend to pursue if you receive the CHCI Scholarship, and how will it benefit the Latino community?

I was interested in building structures at an early age. I was fascinated by how a couple of Lego’s could create an extraordinary masterpiece. I would spend hours creating mini cities from thousands of pieces of Lego’s. In middle school, I discovered that there was actually a career that had a similar description to my passion for creating buildings and other structures. I believed that architects had the best job in the world. I continued to dream of being an architect well into high school, until I discovered an even more perfect career. In my junior year, I was informed of what exactly civil engineering is and how it pertains to the basic principles of architecture. Since I was interested in math, I knew that civil engineering would be the best option for me because it focuses more on how a structure is built.

I plan to use the knowledge and skills that I receive from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to create high quality infrastructures. I would like to take civil engineering to a new level by designing new structures that will have a global impact.

As a first generation Mexican American to attend college, my entire family looks up to me. I believe that I have the responsibility to show them, especially my two younger brothers, that anything is possible. I recognize the obligation that comes with such an opportunity. If I waste this chance, then my family might think it is okay for them to settle for failure too.

My parents have supported me throughout my life. My father works 12 hours a day for six days a week to provide my brothers and me the life that he and my mother could not live. I believe that the best way to pay them back is to “pay it forward,” to help someone else out in his or her time of need. I hope that my work in the community and at school have had a positive impact.

I want to be the person who helped the doctor who found the cure for cancer, attend college.

I believe that I also have the responsibility to help my culture and I plan to do it one kind act at a time. Robert Renteria, a mentor of mine, taught me a valuable lesson about reaching the American Dream, he said, “I learned to never let anyone tell me I can’t do something – remember as long as we have a heart -we always have a chance.”

2. How Has the Scholarship Changed Your Life?

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), has provided me with many opportunities. The CHCI Scholarship has alleviated the obstacle of overcoming the large price tag that comes along with pursuing a higher education, especially engineering. CHCI has enabled me to pursue my dreams of becoming a civil engineer. Along with the monetary award, I am thankful for receiving the laptop because it has allowed for more flexibility with my demanding academic career.

Overall, CHCI has contributed to helping my parents support me both financially and academically. I now have the ability to primarily focus on my studies and future job opportunities, instead of worrying that I may not be able to afford the next semester’s worth of classes. Having chosen me as one of the recipients, CHCI proved that I had potential to make a difference in this world. I have promised to not take this award for granted and have worked hard to do well in all my classes. I currently hold a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.