Written by Phil Cerroni
By Will Jukes
Parents and educators gathered at the Irving ISD administration building for the presentation of Ford Motor Company's Driving Dreams Tour Award on Feb. 28.
The Driving Dreams Tour, the product of a partnership between Ford and Irving ISD, awarded Alexandria Martinez a grand prize package that included a $5,000 scholarship and a $3,000 grant to the after-school program of her choice. The award seeks to promote college enrollment and on-time high school graduation in the district, and serves as the pilot for a program Ford seeks to expand to other districts across the country.
“I actually wasn’t going to enter the contest but at the last minute I decided to do it. I poured my heart into in, and it’s been an incredible journey since,” said Martinez, a student at Irving High School, a soccer player and a participant in Tiger Fever, the school spirit club she's chosen to receive the grant. “I think Ford is great. They will never understand what they’re doing to change people’s lives. I just can’t even express to them how thankful I am.”
Martinez plans to put her scholarship towards a future in drug addiction counseling, which she hopes to pursue by enrolling at Texas Tech University. For the last round of the contest, Martinez and four other finalists were challenged to produce a video describing their goals and how they plan to pursue them. The videos were presented at the award ceremony before the winner was finally announced.
“It was a very difficult choice, trying to narrow it down to five students. We received hundreds of essays, and out of those hundreds of essays we had to narrow it down to five,” said Raul Magdaleno. “Reading the stories was actually the hardest part of it. I believe in their potential, and I believe in what they can do. Through their essays, these students invited me into their worlds.”
Magdaleno, the founder of the Magdaleno Leadership Institute, served as one of the judges responsible for choosing the five finalists from a field of over 2,000 entrants from across the district, in a process that has been ongoing since September. Magdaleno has worked with the district before, but was particularly excited for the chance to work with Ford, citing their enthusiasm for the community.
“The Ford Motor Company Fund has demonstrated an incredible commitment. We started off with something that was supposed to be really small, but because we saw the passion and the commitment that the people in Irving had, the Ford Motor Company said 'We gotta do more, we gotta do more,'” Magdaleno said.
“We didn't know what number we would get, because nothing's been done before to compare it to. But we had approximately 5,000 hits on the website for the voting to kick it off; if you looked at our pep rallies, the students were engaged and motivated,” said Dr. Dana Bedden, Superintendent of Irving ISD.
Bedden was pleased with the results of the program and hopes to bring it back to Irving in the future.
“We talked about maybe every three years or so we'd come back and try to continue the momentum and also expand those opportunities to future students,” he said.