Marfa Live Arts awards $45,000 in Crown Scholarships

MARFA – Eight 2020 Marfa High School graduates have been selected to each receive up to $5,500 in scholarship funds to assist with their pursuit of higher education. “Marfa Live Arts worked with an anonymous angel donor to start The Crown Scholarships and to award them to eight graduating seniors that have excelled in both academics and have been involved with Marfa Live Arts since a young age,” Marfa Live Arts Director Jennie Lyn Hamilton said of the scholastic award.

The eight awardees, Avery Beltran, Tais Chanez, Jared Forrestal, Elena Hernandez, Isabella Morales, Ruben Watts-Ortiz, Angelique Quinoñez, and Bryan Torres will have access to the funds over the first two years of their college careers; with the ability to draw at their discretion based on incentives such as academic performance. “We’re giving the awardees the latitude to budget the funds and use as needed, over a two year period, whether it’s for tuition, books, housing, or a computer,” Hamilton explained, adding that the students will be required to provide proof of enrollment and a schedule of classes to access the funds.

The Crown Scholarships, she said, were proposed by the donor to assist students with their education and made more important as the students face a post-Covid-19 world. “It’s going to be a difficult year for everyone, and our anonymous donor wanted to help these graduates. It’s very important for these kids to continue their education and strive toward achieving their dreams,” she said. “We know it’s not enough to support them during their entire time in college, but hopefully it will help them as they connect with college advisors and find other opportunities to complete their education. We believe in these kids, and we want to help them get started.”

The students were chosen by a committee, who poured over applications which included short essays on their prospective plans for their university years and beyond. Among the awardees, Chanez, who has been involved with Marfa Live Arts for eight years and was a published winning playwright in the 21 Short Plays for the 21 st Century by Marfa Shorthorns book (NoPassport Press), is pursuing a career in nursing and stated that she wants to avoid contributing to the statistics that show 60% of teenage mothers dropping out of high school with 98% not achieving a college education. “I will not be a part of that, I will beat statistics and I will make a great living that will provide my son the life that he deserves,” she wrote, adding that the scholarship would be instrumental in her ambitions. “Receiving the scholarship would be a huge contribution into furthering my education. It would also be an honor to receive a scholarship from Marfa live Arts since I have grown up knowing Marfa Live Arts. This scholarship opportunity is important to me. It would not be taken for granted.” Chanez is also a National Honors Society inductee and has been recognized for her participation in Marfa High School athletics and plans to pursue a degree in nursing at Sul Ross State University.

Another recipient, Ruben Watts-Ortiz, has also shown promise and proclivity for the arts, having won the Marfa Live Arts’ One Act Play competition. His play Reality was staged at the Crowley Theater in April 2019 and is included in the book 21 Short Plays for the 21 st Century by Marfa Shorthorns. Though he does have a passion for the arts, Watts-Ortiz stated that he strives to someday open a business in his native El Paso (where he also hopes to attend college) that will also contribute to young students’ pursuit of higher education by providing scholarships. “My goal in life is to give back to others, because I know how hard life can beat you down,” he wrote, adding that the scholarship will help him continue to practice artistic endeavors. “Art has been an amazing outlet for me through my years of high school. Getting this scholarship would mean the world to me and motivate me to focus on art and my skills (as an artist).”

Award recipient Avery Beltran is the winning Senior playwright for this year’s Playwriting Program. Her play Rona is a pandemic comedy/horror/zombie work that will be released as part of Marfa Live Arts’ upcoming Radio Plays in the Time of Corona this summer.

The Crown Scholarship, Hamilton said, has thus far only been funded for this year’s graduating class, though Marfa Live Arts hopes to find new funding to continue helping students with college expenses in the future. “Right now, it’s a one-time special scholarship. We hope to continue giving some type of scholarship, but right now, it’s a sort of miracle that it’s happening,” she said. “We’ve worked with our anonymous donor and the school administration trying to make this happen all year, and we’re happy to be able to help these students. They’re all exceptional students and they’re up to the challenge to get the brass ring and their college diploma.”