11:07 AM

High Schooler with a Heart of Gold wins Hometown Heroes

Anjali GonzalezAnjali Gonzalez is not a mother. But this dedicated high school student and super active member of her community brainstormed a scholarship-winning idea to benefit mothers and thousands of babies. The community-minded teenager won the Hometown Heroes Scholarship contest at University of St. Thomas – Houston (UST), making her the recipient of a full-ride scholarship at UST.

"When I found out I was awarded the Hometown Heroes Scholarship I felt very surprised and grateful. I was glad that I was able to take away the stress of college tuition from my parents. In addition, I was excited to turn my project into a reality!" said Gonzalez.

The project Gonzalez submitted to the Hometown Heroes Scholarship contest aims to distribute diapers and other baby supplies to mothers who, due to the recent increase in prices of first-necessity items, have resorted to desperate cost-saving measures to provide for their babies. In the case of several families in Northside Houston, where Gonzalez lives, moms have been resorting to using plastic bags instead of diapers and even washing and reusing disposable diapers.

"I had heard multiple stories from relatives and other adults about their struggles finding enough childcare products for a reasonable price." added Gonzalez. "Hearing these testimonials left me with a lot of compassion for these mothers, and that inspired the idea for my project."

Gonzalez’s well-defined project plan calls for a partnership between philanthropists and corporate entities that produce baby products. The distribution of diapers and other baby items would take place at selected community centers and schools where economically disadvantaged families could pick up the items for free.

For Lynda McKendree, UST’s Dean of Scholarships and Financial Aid and member of the Hometown Heroes selection committee, this project is a solid reflection of the values that the Hometown Heroes initiative strived to identify and highlight.

"The scholarship committee was very impressed with Anjali!" said McKendree. "She identified that the cost of basic baby care supplies in her community was a problem for mothers of young children. Anjali has a lot of ideas to find partners or sponsors and for our campus to do a drive to gather these items for distribution."

For Gonzalez, the future is bright. With a natural interest in the sciences and the medical field, she will start taking classes in the fall with her sights set on pursuing a nursing degree.

"The ability to help heal, comfort and assist others on their path to recovery is something I believe to be very rewarding. As a nurse, I want to help others during what could be the most vulnerable and unanticipated moments of their lives."

Launched in 2022, the Hometown Heroes Scholarship initiative at UST will provide Gonzalez's project with the funding and support to make it a reality. The scholarship contest was opened to Houston Independent School District high school seniors who submitted written plans to solve problems in their communities.