Obama’s Nobel money comes home, aiming for Hispanic achievement

By Raghav Verma

Even though President Barack Obama has not taught at the U of C for seven years, the former senior lecturer in the Law School has a unique connection with third-year Katherine Minaya.

Last week, Minaya was named one of 12 of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s (HSF) “Obama Scholars,” providing her with $2,500 scholarship money per year through her fourth year.

The two-year program, which received $125,000 of Obama’s 2009 Nobel Prize money, supports Latino students through college in order to increase the diversity of teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math, known collectively as STEM fields. The fund hopes to send at least one student in every Latino home through college.

“If we get more Hispanics through college and we get them to come back to the community, emphasize the values they have been taught, and show young Hispanics how successful they actually could be, then these young Hispanics go on to obtain their own college degrees and to come back to their communities,” Minaya said in an e-mail.

The scholarship supports Latino students who plan to teach in STEM fields after they graduate from college. Minaya, a biological sciences major from New York City, said that she hopes to join Teach for America after graduating from the College.

“Whatever it is I end up teaching, however, I want to make sure I impact another disadvantaged student’s life the way my life has been. Without teachers who cared, I would not be doing any of what I am doing today,” Minaya said. She added that she hopes to teach mathematics and science, two fields that brought her to the U of C.

HSF selected the 12 Obama Scholars based on academic achievement, community service involvement, several essays, and their commitment to teaching after graduating.

The remainder of Obama’s $1.9 million prize was divided among other non-profits in similar portions, according to an HSF press release.