Archived Story

Mexican consul visits Riverland

Published 4:06pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

AUSTIN — Riverland Community College officials strengthened ties between Mexico and Austin Friday as local officials welcomed and thanked Mexican Consul Alberto Fierro for $14,000 in scholarships from the Mexican government.

“It’s great, to be in touch with my people,” Fierro said of his visit to the area.

Riverland officials applied for and secured grant money earlier this year from the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, or the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME). The Hormel Foundation will offer a matching grant of $14,000 as well, and the scholarships will go exclusively to Mexican American students as early as this spring.

“We embrace diversity,” said Riverland president Adenuga Atewologun. “We are subscribing to the notion that our community is not limited.”

Riverland has built a reputation for its strong international students program over the past 10 years. About 21 percent of its student population is nonwhite, according to Danielle Heiny, Director of Retention & Student Services. In addition, more than 8 percent of Riverland’s student population are of Mexican descent.

That’s part of the reason why Heiny and other Riverland staff decided to pursue the grant.

“When I had heard we had the Mexican Consul in St. Paul, my goal was to bring him here to Austin and get him to know how wonderful our community is,” said International Student Advisor Miguel Garate, who noted Fierro had also visited Austin earlier this year as part of the Mexican Consulate to assist area Mexican Americans.

While the scholarship amount may seem small, Fierro noted the Mexican government set aside about $1 million in education grants this year, with the St. Paul Consulate receiving the largest portion of funding. The move, he said, is part of a broader initiative by U.S. and Mexican officials to strengthen ties between the neighboring nations through educational opportunities.

“We want Mexican students studying here in the U.S., and we want American students to come study in Mexico,” Fierro said.