The FRS Scholarship program helps equip rural students with tools to strengthen communities like those they grew up in. Ileana Guzman of Artesia, N.M., was awarded an FRS Scholarship in 2010 and has used it to help propel her on an impressive journey ever since. She recently shed light on her education, rural upbringing and experiences with rural broadband—five years after Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative (abbreviated PVT, in Artesia, N.M.) sponsored this extraordinary applicant.
Q: How did you first hear about the FRS scholarship program? Did you already have a relationship with your local broadband/telephone provider before applying?
A: While I was a senior in high school, I knew I that needed all the help I could get to go to college. I looked into all the local, state and national scholarships I could apply for. Fortunately, my guidance counselor told me about the FRS scholarship that was sponsored by PVT. My parents had been using PVT for our house landline and internet for over nine years, and we still continue to use PVT to this day.
Q: Relationships with local providers often bear substantial fruit. In terms of impact on pursuing your post-secondary education, was the funding you received through the FRS scholarship an important part of financing your education? Would you recommend that others apply for this funding?
A: The FRS scholarship was a blessing in my life as a college student. The funding was a very important part of financing my education because I was commuting to college and the transportation expenses were putting a huge toll on my budget. I was driving about 80 miles (round trip) to Roswell two days per week the first three years of college. Then, I was driving about 280 miles (round trip) to Portales once a month for my bachelor’s degree. Without the extra support I received through the FRS scholarship, it would have been very difficult for me to meet all of the college expenses on my own. The FRS scholarship really made a positive impact on my education.
Now that I work at the schools, I encourage the students to apply for local scholarships. I would definitely encourage all students to apply for the FRS scholarship.
Q: That’s incredible—we’re certainly proud to support such hard work and determination, especially since you’re able to pay it forward in your rural community. Let’s talk a little bit about the draw that rural America’s had on you. What are some of the things that you value about your rural background?
A: Coming from a rural background I value hard work and education. I have also learned that hard work and education come hand-in-hand. Living in a small community where the resources are scarce, you learn to utilize what you have, work hard, but most importantly, make it work. Having a college education can open up many opportunities at the community level. I am thankful for the support my community has given me, and I am committed to giving back to my community as a professional individual. I appreciate the efforts of organizations such as the FRS that invest in programs to promote higher education among rural community students in hopes that one day they will return and make our community a better place!
Q: This is great—it’s music to our ears here at FRS, where we see that as really the embodiment of the scholarship program’s mission. And it’s fascinating to hear how your skills have become a real resource for the area, in part through your higher education. Has your perception of rural America changed since continuing your education?
A: Since continuing my education, I have learned to greatly appreciate our rural community and values. In the social work field we learn to advocate for community development, social justice and economic advancement. As a social worker, I am committed to expanding the resource availability in my community and empowering the youth to become successful leaders of our community.
Q: It’s no secret that broadband is playing a greater role in education and improving quality of life in rural America. What was the quality of telecommunication services like in your hometown? Has your education influenced your outlook on broadband and its importance in daily life?
A: The quality of telecommunication services in Artesia has improved over the years. As a long-distance education student, having a reliable broadband connection is one of the most important tools that I utilize as an online college student. I rely 100% on my internet services to continue my education and attend my online classes.
Q: Tell me a bit more about the rural community with which you’re able to maintain such strong ties. Is your hometown someplace you’d recommend people move to?
A: Artesia is the best place to live, work and raise a family. We have a beautiful and strong community all around. The people here are friendly and supportive of each other. As a community we heavily rely on each other and we come together during tough situations. Our community is highly sports-driven and we love and support our high school Bulldogs. In Artesia we have a strong sense of unity and pride in our community. We have a wonderful education system and our streets are mostly peaceful and quiet. I would invite anyone to come visit our hometown or make Artesia their home.
Ileana attended Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell, Eastern New Mexico University–Portales and most recently graduated with her masters in social work from Western New Mexico University.