For many, the week before Ash Wednesday is a time to indulge, but for the Latin American Womens Association in Charlotte, its a chance to help Hispanic youth attend college.
On Feb. 9, the 21-year-old organization will host its annual Carnival event at the Hilton Hotel in uptown.
The event which will feature a mix of Mardi Gras and Brazilian Carnival elements will include Samba dancers, a magic show and specialty Brazilian mixed drinks.
There will also be a silent auction for items such as a weekend trip to Boca Raton, Fla., and hand-loomed tapestries from Peru.
But organizers said the part theyre looking forward to most is raising more than $50,000 to award to Hispanic youth attending college.
We have a lot of incredible students who get to this country and become top students at very good universities, said board member Anneliese Foerster. They will become the future for this community and become the kind of strong leaders that we need.
Maria Boral, vice chair of the association board, said that although the organization doesnt award full scholarships, members try to give at least $1,500 to each recipient. And students a part of the scholarship program are able to renew their scholarship each year.
The hope is that the money raised on Feb. 9 will help both males and females attend the college of their dreams and that afterward, theyll bring their skills back to the community and improve quality of life for the Hispanic community. The money will also go toward helping nontraditional female students pay for such classes as ESL (English as a second language).
Last year, the association provided scholarships for 19 students as well as 11 nontraditional students.
Liz Linzan, 27, is one student who used the scholarship money all four years of college and ended up coming back to Charlotte to help improve the community.
Linzan said a guidance counselor at Olympic High School told her about the scholarship program in 2004.
Linzan spent her undergraduate career at UNC Chapel Hill. She was actively involved with the Carolina Hispanic Association on campus and ultimately became the groups president.
Linzan also regularly helped with Carnival preparations in Charlotte while she was home from school.
Now Linzan is studying law at UNC Charlotte. She plans to graduate with her law degree in May and hopes to specialize in immigration and workers compensation law.
She also recently joined the LAWA scholarship committee to help select future participants. I particularly like working with high school youth trying to go to college so it was a perfect fit, she said.
Boral said shes hopeful that the organization can raise enough money at Carnival to continue funding more ambitious Hispanic youth like Linzan.
Shes a great example of how we gave her this help, gave her this step up and we were able to see her come back and give back to the community, Boral said.