HLSR surpass $175 million in scholarships

Alyssa Foley, Editor in Chief

When you think of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, BBQ,  bull-riding, concerts, carnival rides, deep fried Oreos and more come to mind. One thing the rodeo offers that we often forget? Scholarships.

Since its founding, the rodeo has given over 16 thousand scholarships valued at about $175 million. Amy Moroney, the Executive Director of the HLSR’s Educational Programs Department, noted in an interview that, “we have committed about $12.9 million to give away this year.”

Rodeo Houston has given about $150 thousand to Houston Community College this school year in scholarships and grants.

Moroney explained HLSR selected seven area colleges where they would donate technical scholarships to non-traditional students. Last Fall, the rodeo established a technical education scholarship with a gift of $30 thousand to help HCC students earn their welding certificate.

The HLSR has also long been a supporter of first responders and HCC’s Public Safety Institute at the Northeast Codwell campus.

In December, the rodeo gave $116 thousand to support HCC’s Public Safety Institute. Of that amount, $45 thousand is being used to purchase equipment for the law enforcement academy while the remaining funds will be used to support the college’s emergency telecommunications center, to provide training to meet industry demands for 9-1-1 dispatchers.

“We are deeply grateful for the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo’s longstanding commitment to HCC and what their investment makes possible for our students who are preparing to be the city’s next generation of first defenders,” stated HCC Trustee Zeph Capo, the 2015 Board of Trustees Chair, at the December meeting.

Joel Cowley, the President and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo explained at the December HCC trustee meeting that historically, 66 students have attended HCC on HLSR scholarships, which total to about $671 thousand. Meanwhile, since 2009, grants to HCC from the HLSR have totaled $564 thousand, and they have established an endowment with a market value of $238 thousand.

“We are truly, truly pleased to support HCC and give back to the local Houston economy,” stated Cowley.

“You have been a supporter to allow us to implement the simulation labs to provide training for our students,” said Dr. Margaret Ford-Fisher, the President of HCC Northeast where the

Public Safety Institute is located, “as a result of the contributions, we have been seeing a significant difference in the success of our students….[HLSR is] making a significant difference in the lives of our students and in the life of our community.”

“It’s been a successful program,” Moroney said about the rodeo’s HCC partnership, “we plan to continue it in the future.”

While the HLSR was founded in 1932, the first scholarships were not given out until 1957.

“Everyone of you make these scholarships possible,” said Dr. Ben Dickerson to a crowd of around 65 thousand at the NRG Stadium on Friday March 18. Dr. Dickerson was the rodeo’s first scholarship winner and is known as “number one.” Back in 1957, he won a $2,000 scholarship.

Dr. Dickerson explained what the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo means to him, “It means networking. It means leading. It means legacy. It means that there is so much more involved than just some money we receive. It seems like it’s a lifelong experience with all of you.”

“Some of the revenue from the show does go into our educational fund,” explained Moroney, adding that, “we have donors that will contribute specifically to our scholarship program. And then the way that our [livestock] auction programs are setup, for each of the auctions, each of the lots have a cap amount, and then the proceeds above that cap amount then go towards the educational fund.”

“The rodeo was created to help build agriculture in the community,” Moroney reflected, “and part of that was educating the public about agriculture. In that avenue, education was included and that kind of morphed into scholarships.”

“When we first started giving scholarships, students were required to attend Texas A&M University and to major in agriculture,” explained Moroney.

Those requirements changed. Now students who win HLSR scholarships can attend any not-for-profit accredited college in Texas and can pursue any degree. Most of the scholarships HLSR awards are given to students are for graduating high school seniors.

“For most of our scholarships, it’s a four-year Bachelor degree that we require them to attain,” noted Moroney. The rodeo gives over 600 scholarships directly to high school seniors every year, which are each $18 thousand a year for four years. The rodeo also awards five technical scholarships valued at $9 thousand per year directly to graduating high school seniors for two-year programs.
Previous rodeo scholarship winners are eligible for additional scholarships. Moroney explained that, “they can apply for those scholarships once they reach their junior year or have completed four semesters in college and they can apply for an additional $16 thousand.”