A legacy emerged from tragedy, and a committee refused to let the coronavirus pandemic alter its course.
After leaving his afternoon classes one September day in 2015, Isaiah Vialpando, a sophomore at Colorado State University Pueblo, was shot in downtown Pueblo. A year-and-a-half-long investigation revealed that a gang member had mistakenly associated Vialpando’s vehicle with another gang member’s and proceeded to shoot him. Due to the extensive injuries he suffered, Vialpando died at the hospital.
Vialpando’s parents, Roberto Córdova and Melissa Vialpando, along with the help of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, established the Isaiah Vialpando Memorial Scholarship in 2016. The scholarship was founded in memory of Isaiah and to celebrate the aspirations he once had. The scholarships also give Pueblo’s young adults an avenue to opportunity.
“It angers us that our son was murdered out of mistaken identity, and it wasn’t any fault of his,” Córdova said.
“We made a promise that we would always keep his memory alive in the most positive way,” Melissa added. “Since we always instilled the importance of education in him, I immediately thought of an educational scholarship.
“That was our vision of honoring our son and his legacy,” Córdova said.
They reached out to the PHEF, a foundation committed to securing funds for scholarships and other educational support for low-moderate income students.
MORE: Sign dedicated where Isaiah Vialpando was killed in Pueblo
In its first two years, the memorial scholarship was funded by a $1,000 donation from Vialpondo’s parents.
“Then we started thinking about how we could raise funds,” Córdova said. “My friend does a huge run in Denver; it’s called the Chicano Pride Ride. In 2019, I think he gave out $27,000. So we got the idea for a ride from him. There are a lot of motorcycle runs in Pueblo, but none for education scholarships.”
“The opportunity was perfect,” Melissa said, because the local biker community is always willing to rally together for fundraising.
From there, the Isaiah Vialpando Vicla Run began.
Since 2016, the memorial scholarship has helped 18 students. Despite the circumstances thrust upon the scholarship committee by the coronavirus pandemic, 10 students were awarded scholarships in 2020.
The feat was monumental because the Isaiah Vialpando Vicla Run – the scholarship’s biggest fundraiser – was canceled this year.
“No we are not going to accept that,’” Córdova said. “I told them, ‘Man, let’s think outside the box.’ And they did.”
The committee celebrated the annual Mariachi Mass Intentions at Holy Family Parish in honor of Vialpando, and the Mariachis performed in memory of the young scholar, who himself was a Mariachi musician. They sold homemade suckers, burritos, Vialpando Memorial logo bandanas, T-shirts, hoodies, face masks, coats, wristbands, and vinyl stickers.
“We have the Mariachi Mass every year on my son’s birthday,” Córdova said. “But this year we had a Mariachi Mass in September. We ended up making over $500 just at that one Mass.”
Donations were accepted throughout the community, and all told, $5,000 was raised.
“Thankfully, we have the most selfless family and friends who were willing to assist and the most amazing committee, and we are still learning as we go,” Melissa said. “There’s a lot of work and effort that goes into it, but the outcome is more than rewarding.
“When we hand out those scholarships, knowing we were able to play a part in assisting those students achieve their academic aspirations, it truly warms our hearts.”
Janelle Quick, executive director for PHEF, who works closely with Vialpondo’s parents, noted the committee went above and beyond, refusing to accept the possibility they would be unable to help young adults in the community this year.
“They kept sharing that they raised enough money for another scholarship, and then another,” Quick said. “When it was all said and done, they were able to give twice as many scholarships than they first anticipated. We are very fortunate to help this family keep Isaiah’s memory alive and support students in our community.”
PHEF’s role in the memorial scholarship is to help the committee find students who qualify, then award them.
“The scholarship itself has some criteria,” Quick said. “You have to 2.5 GPA, be from Pueblo, be from Hispanic or Latino descent. We found the students for the scholarship committee through our application process, then the scholarship committee helps us review the essay questions that are submitted for the scholarship.”
The 2020 Isaiah Vialpando Memorial Scholarship recipients are: Alyssa Apodaca, Freddy Calzadillas, Thomas Duran, Vanessa Figueroa, Josefina Garcia, Sabrina Garcia, Sloan Garcia, Joseph Mayoral, Tori Ortiz and Mayra J. Plascencia.
Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @smith_alexis27.
The post “Isaiah Vialpando Memorial Scholarship awards 10 recipients in 2020” Was originally published on www.chieftain.com