PROUD awards struggling students


One year after students donated more than $60,000 in the first student fund-raising campaign at K-State, the distribution of money raised through the 2007 K-State PROUD campaign continues.

The KSU Student Foundation, the organization that oversees the annual campaign and award process, formed a committee to allocate the donations and created two funds: the Hero Awards and Proud Awards, said Ben Tryon, vice president of allocations for the foundation.

Tryon said the type of student who receives the two awards differs. The PROUD Awards are given to K-State students who are experiencing financial hardship.

“The students who win the PROUD Awards are individuals struggling to make ends meet,” said Tryon, senior in chemical engineering. “They have exhausted every avenue of financial aid offered by K-State. These are students who run into dire circumstances with medical bills, child care, flooded apartments – you name it. These students have run into bad luck and can’t make ends meet.”

Tryon said the names of students who receive PROUD Awards are kept confidential to protect their privacy. Applications for PROUD Awards are considered on a rolling basis, and the application is available on the foundation Web site,

The foundation awarded $30,000 in the fall semester, Tryon said. In addition, five students received the first Hero Awards last week in recognition of outstanding campus commitment.

Sammy Ornelas, senior in kinesiology and pre-health, was one of the recipients of the Hero Award. Ornelas was nominated anonymously by a faculty member.

“It came as a surprise to me,” Ornelas said about the award. “I didn’t know that I was being nominated.”

Ornelas said his work with the Developing Scholars program was an important part of his academic development.

“With Developing Scholars, I’ve been given the opportunity to work with a professor in the kinesiology department doing undergraduate research,” he said. “The last two years I’ve presented research at the Developing Scholars final presentation. The first year we received best in show.”

Ornelas’ nominator said his academic accomplishments are even more impressive considering his extracurricular involvement. Ornelas serves as scholarship chairman of Sigma Lambda Beta, a Latino fraternity, and was instrumental in establishing a new scholarship by raising funds and leading a letter-writing campaign.

“We established a scholarship called the Latino Immigrant Scholarship,” Ornelas said. “We’ve been lobbying for immigrant rights and working really hard on these issues.”

Ornelas is also a member of Golden Key Honorary, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Multicultural Student Honor Society and McNair Scholars. He volunteers at the Wonder Workshop and serves as a sergeant in the National Guard.

His nominator said in her nomination that Ornelas received notice he was being deployed to Iraq, but because of his level of excellence in leadership, his colonel decided to defer his deployment so he could go to medical school after graduation.

“His colonel wrote, ‘He is a good soldier with great potential for service to his community and country … At this point, I believe it is the best interest of the Kansas Guard to continue to support his studies while he retains his membership in the Guard,'” the nominator wrote.

Ornelas said he plans to graduate in May, pursue a master’s degree in public health and eventually apply to medical school – something he said seemed impossible before he came to K-State.

“I never thought of going to medical school until a lot of my professors encouraged me,” he said. “I thought it was beyond me. My advisers – particularly Anita Cortez [director of the Developing Scholars program] – kept pushing me and saying, ‘Hey, you can do this.'”

His nominator described Ornelas as a humble, “unsung hero,” always working to improve his environment and empower those around him. But “hero” is a term Ornelas is hesitant to use.

“I don’t feel like I’ve been doing much,” Ornelas said. “I know a lot of students who are working just as hard at K-State – or maybe harder.”

Students and faculty can make nominations for the next round of Hero Awards beginning March 1 on the foundation Web site. The process begins again this spring with donations received in the second-annual K-State PROUD campaign.

Tryon said the campaign offers students a chance to make a difference.

“K-State PROUD gives you the ability to help out your fellow students – to keep them in school, working toward a dream,” he said. “That’s a fantastic reason to get involved with this campaign.”