Southwest Airlines Gives Free Travel to College Students

Southwest Airlines Gives Free Travel to College Students


Dallas, TX–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–August 25, 2005–Southwest Airlines and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) are proud to announce the winners of the “Dándole Alas a Tu Éxito/Giving Flight to Your Success” travel award program. Through this new initiative, Southwest Airlines will provide airline tickets to Hispanic college students with socio-economic need and who travel away from home to pursue a higher education. During the 2005-06 academic year, students will be able to use their tickets for travel on Southwest Airlines.

“Achieving a higher education and keeping close family ties makes a big difference to Hispanic students. Southwest Airlines saw the opportunity to make an impact with those students and their families through this program,” said Christine Ortega, Southwest’s Hispanic Community Affairs Manager. “We want to encourage students to complete their college journey and keep them connected to those who matter most – ‘la familia’.”

Although the students’ backgrounds were different, they all shared a common bond – to achieve a higher education and maintain close family ties. For a list of the winners, please visit:

For winner Tanya Flores, a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the travel award will help her mother become familiar with the college environment. “When I arrive home for the summer vacations, I always see [my mother’s] little envelope with the words “Fondo Para Graduación” (Graduation Fund). She has been saving money throughout both of my first years in college for her trip to Boston to see me graduate from college. It breaks my heart to know that we barely have the resources to send me up to college each year, and my mother will not be able to see [my] college until I graduate,” Flores said in her essay.

Education advocates and community leaders from across the country made up the selection committee to determine the winners. For a list of the selection committee, please visit:

“Choosing the winners was a real challenge because each student had an inspiring story,” said Dr. Jaime Rodriguez, University of Notre Dame professor and a selection committee member. “I know I was impressed and moved by their accomplishments very often under some really difficult circumstances. In college, they will face new tests and a good connection with home – with “la familia” – can really be a big boost.”

“Through this new initiative with Southwest Airlines, we are committed to helping Hispanic students attain a higher education,” said Antonio Flores, HACU’s President and CEO.

For winner Maria Elena Cruz, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, the travel award will have a positive impact. In her essay, she wrote, “if I were to be awarded air travel to visit my Mom and family, HACU and Southwest Airlines would greatly assist my family and me by taking some of the financial and emotional burden away. I would simultaneously be able to purchase books, and have my mother come visit me in Austin. Without the assistance of this award, I would not be able to do both and only see my family when money permitted. Family is what keeps me balanced and focused.”

For winner Mark Lopez, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, the travel award will let him share his college graduation with his parents. “Headed into my fourth year in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, my parents are yet to visit their son; let alone ever venture east of Texas! I know my parents have been attempting to save for my graduation since my arrival in Maryland, but due to other economic priorities, I know those funds have depleted,” Lopez wrote in his essay.

In the first year of the travel award program, more than 350 students applied for the opportunity to win up to two (2) roundtrip tickets for the student and/or parent traveling to/from the university. To be eligible for the award, the students had to meet several criteria including a 2.5 or higher GPA and submitting a 300-500 word essay answering one of the following questions:

— What are your challenges in working toward higher education?

— If you could have someone travel with you to your college or university, who would that person be and why?

— How do you believe that obtaining air travel to your university would benefit you and your family?

HACU, which has its national headquarters in San Antonio, represents more than 400 colleges and universities, including Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), which collectively serve more than two-thirds of all Hispanic higher education students in the United States. HACU’s international membership includes leading higher education institutions in Latin America and in Spain.

Southwest Airlines was recognized by HISPANIC Magazine for the 2005 Hispanic Corporate 100. The award focuses on Southwest Airlines’ Leadership in providing opportunities for Hispanics and for supporting recruitment, scholarships, minority vendor programs, and Hispanic organizations.

Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 60 airports in 31 states. Southwest’s 61st city, Ft. Myers, begins service on Oct. 2, 2005. Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,000 flights a day and has 31,000+ Employees systemwide.



Southwest Airlines

Edna Ruano (Bilingual Spokesperson – English & Spanish)


Public Relations




Lorena Blanco


Southwest Airlines Gives Free Travel to College Students