U.S.: El Paso Family Announces TTUHSC Scholarship in Memory of Parents and Sister

When Dianne May and Arturo Cervantes were raising their children, they imparted the straightforward yet profound lesson that “paying it forward lifts everyone up.”

The Cervantes siblings, who are now adults, graciously gave a $35,000 donation to Texas Tech Health El Paso on Thursday in support of scholarships to the Foster School of Medicine.

The Ysleta Independent School District high school graduates will be given preference when it comes to receiving the Dianne and Arturo Cervantes Scholarship in Memory of Amanda Dawn Cervantes, which will be given to any qualifying El Paso area student.

The gift will be matched by TTUHSC El Paso, bringing the total to $70,000.

In addition to their spouses, Alyssa Cervantes Benavides, Ph.D., M.P.A., Aaron Daniel Cervantes, J.D., and Andrew David Cervantes, M.B.A., expressed their desire to pay tribute to their sister Amanda Dawn Cervantes, who died in infancy due to a congenital heart condition, and their parents’ teachings of love, learning, and service.

Their father has also overcome many bouts of skin cancer after Amanda’s passing.

With their gift, they aim to fund the medical education of future doctors who will practice in the Borderplex and assist families much like theirs.

We can recall the pain of watching our father pack up to drive to Houston for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center throughout our childhood,” said Dr. Benavides. “Families shouldn’t have to deal with that uncertainty apart, but we had no choice and so we did. We’re grateful our father returned each time after treatment and continued to push us to remain focused on education and service.

Dr. Benavides is the senior director of the Office of Interprofessional Education at Texas Tech Health El Paso; Aaron Daniel Cervantes is the executive director of development at the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA; and Andrew David Cervantes is an adjunct faculty member at Alamo Colleges and a senior college alumni adviser at the San Antonio Independent School District.

According to Aaron Cervantes, all three of their children were motivated to seek higher education degrees and careers in higher education by their parents’ leadership.

Even at times of financial hardship, when bills were arriving on a regular basis, they were also giving with their money.

They survived life’s hardships, including the loss of a child and aggressive cancer diagnoses, while sometimes struggling to make ends meet,” Aaron Cervantes said. “And yet, they regularly gave money to MD Anderson and to the March of Dimes toward cancer treatment and birth defect prevention, respectively. They did this knowing any gift could make a difference for a family in need.

The Cervantes siblings were moved by the grassroots effort to establish a medical school in El Paso as adults, and they have been amazed by the expansion of Texas Tech Health El Paso.

They understood then, as they do now, that El Paso should have the same kind of thriving community with an emphasis on health sciences and universal access to healthcare that major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago enjoy.

To help fund the education of a future doctor, who may one day treat patients like our father and sister, is a special accomplishment and an honor,” Aaron Cervantes said. “Encouraging El Paso students, the way our parents encouraged us, not only continues our parents’ legacy but also furthers the city’s destiny for a healthier, more prosperous Borderplex. Since El Paso graduates are likely to stay close to home and help our community, we know our gift will advance health care in our Borderplex.

The Cervantes family hopes their philanthropy encourages others to support scholarships.

Dr. Benavides said giving any amount, to any local charity, helps the people and economic development of El Paso.

Giving provides opportunities. We hope our scholarship plays a part in encouraging El Paso students toward the health care field, to learn in a quality academic health care program like those offered at Texas Tech Health El Paso,” Dr. Benavides said. “We hope it inspires more El Paso students to dedicate their careers to serving the people of our community. We want do what we can to ensure the best future for our children and future generations.

Elizabeth Penner, a second-year Foster School of Medicine student, is the kind of student who will profit from the Cervantes scholarship.

Penner, who graduated from the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, knew she would need to pursue a career in health care after her mother was involved in an accident and her father died when she was a young girl.

Kelly Tomblin, the president and CEO of El Paso Electric, gave Penner a $10,000 personal gift last year to help her fulfill her dream and pay for her medical school tuition.

During the Cervantes gift announcement, Penner discussed the value of scholarships and how the family’s donation will enable gifted local students to grow into the next wave of healthcare professionals in their community.

A scholarship for me means beyond financial support. It helps you when you’re tired or discouraged because it really pushes you to go beyond your measures because you have someone that’s believing in you,” Elizabeth said. “The Cervantes family scholarship is going to impact people just like the Kelly Tomblin scholarship impacted me. It’s going to give other students the opportunity to feel the support of a person having your back and someone just rooting for you.

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