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New Scholarship Strives To Help Local Students Become Teachers In Odessa

Lorena Solento (Center -Left) and Samir Chavira (Center-Right) are the first recipients of the full-ride scholarship. (Photo courtesy of UT Permian Basin)

By Mitch Borden

In a new effort to address the teacher shortage in Ector County Independent School district — a new scholarship has been created to help fill hundreds of vacancies.

Two organizations  —The University of Texas Permian Basin and the Odessa Education Foundation— are partnering to offer the full-ride scholarships for prospective teachers. 

Lorena Sotelo is one of the first recipients of the scholarship. She’s been going to school part-time for six years to get her teacher certification. Now that she can afford to go to school full-time with this scholarship, she expects to finish her degree this year. Her goal is to become a bilingual elementary school teacher.  

Sotelo said seeing the shortage made her want to step up and teach.

“[It] just makes you want to find a way to give back to help out because my kids are going to be going to school here for a long time.” She continued, “Their grandkids are probably going to go to school here. So it’s just like how can I give back and help out not just my kids but others in the community.”

The goal of the scholarship is to encourage new teachers to stay and work in the Permian Basin by making education affordable for them. Lindsey Balderaz is the scholarship coordinator.

She said, “People don’t go into teaching for the money. So this scholarship can relieve this financial burden especially living in the Permian Basin where we have a housing crisis going on right now.”

In the future, Balderaz says, the plan is to award more scholarships.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.