Extending the hand of friendship for half a century
Thanks to El Amistad Club (The Friendship Club) of Round Rock, recent Cedar Ridge High School graduate Marcella De La Rosa is one step closer to her goal of attending Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida to study health and exercise science. “I’m so thankful for my scholarship from the El Amistad Club,” Marcella says. “And I’m grateful that the club promotes the importance of higher education. It gives students hope that they, too, can achieve their goals.”
Since its inception in 1968, El Amistad Club has extended the hand of friendship many times and, in doing so, has helped hundreds of deserving students like Marcella to attend two- or four-year colleges or trade schools. In nearly 50 years, the Club has awarded close to $2 million in scholarships. In 2017 alone, the club awarded more than $1,500 each to 56 area high school students.
Students typically learn about the scholarship opportunity through club members. Marcella explains that her dad, who is now a member, originally heard about the scholarships through friends and colleagues. He encouraged Marcella to complete an application that included an essay question asking why she thought she deserved the scholarship. Her response makes it clear why she was chosen. She says, “I wrote that because of my parents’ jobs, I’ve lived all over the world, including in third-world countries, where I learned the value of community service and giving back to others. Then, as a senior in high school, I earned 86 service hours by volunteering in my community.” This summer Marcella served as a camp counselor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “I love working with kids,” she says.
El Amistad Club is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, established to support the joint efforts of community members who are involved in the areas of education, community service, recognition of veterans, and Hispanic cultural awareness. Current president Al Garcia believes, “It is El Amistad Club’s commitment to education that is so important.”
Past scholarship recipients have gone on to become teachers, businessmen and women, and health care professionals, says Andy Martinez, chairman of the club’s 50th Anniversary Marketing Committee. He adds that the club is “seeing an increasing number of the millennial generation who want to give back by getting involved and helping to raise funds for scholarships for future generations.”
This year’s scholarship recipients and their parents attended a banquet held in their honor at Cedar Ridge High School, where, along with club members and local officials, they celebrated their accomplishments and listened to featured speaker Ashley Paredez from Fox News Austin.
The student scholarships are funded through a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, including the club’s best-known event, Fiesta Amistad, held each Memorial Day weekend at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. “The Fiesta is the most visible event that we conduct. It has been held for 49 years and is something that the community always looks forward to,” says Andy.
The Fiesta features food, games, arts and crafts, live music, a car show, and a special recognition of local veterans. “Our veterans’ recognition is always a highlight at the Fiesta,” Andy explains. The first dozen or so members of local VFW and American Legion chapters who step forward are honored with a plaque thanking them for their service. Al Garcia adds, “We highlight their contributions and honor them with a 21-gun salute and the playing of ‘Taps.’” Local elected officials are on hand for the ceremony as well.
Andy says the Fiesta also provides the club with opportunity for branding and marketing, although it is not the event that generates the most funds for the club. That would be the Bingo Nights the club cosponsors with the American Business Women’s Association—Treaty Oak Chapter. The Bingo Nights are held Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Creek Side Charity Bingo on Chisholm Trail in Round Rock (located behind Rudy’s Bar-B-Q). “We typically get about 100 players a night, and all proceeds are designated for scholarships,” Andy says.
The club’s other large fundraiser is the annual Golf Invitational tournament that Al says raises up to $10,000 each year. This year’s tournament was held in September in Sun City, with more than 100 players participating.
El Amistad Club also supports National Hispanic Institute youth leadership development activities, such as the annual Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Conference. Marcella De La Rosa says, “In addition to education, I love that El Amistad Club promotes the Hispanic culture and encourages people to embrace it and learn more about it.”
The club’s motto states, “El amistad es mas que oro!” (“Friendship is worth more than gold!”) The many people who have benefited from the club’s extended hand of friendship over the decades are proof of El Amistad’s determination to carry out its mission in the spirit of community service.
For more information on El Amistad Club or how to get involved, visit www.elamistadclub.org.