By Aaron Daniel Cervantes, Alyssa Cervantes Benavides and Andrew David Cervantes
National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15 was a day to celebrate those who give back to their communities and pay it forward with impact, including the biggest philanthropists we know: our parents Dianne May and Arturo Cervantes.
We grew up with very little financial resources, but were rich in the love and support of our parents. They encouraged us to focus on and devote our lives to education and service. After completing our education, we carried that focus and devotion into our careers. The three of us have committed our work to providing opportunities and support to students in higher education.
Like many others in El Paso, life hasn’t always been easy for our family. It was filled with challenges and difficult times. Our sister, Amanda Dawn Cervantes, passed away from heart failure as an infant before we were born. Since her passing, our father has survived multiple bouts of melanoma cancer.
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. 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.
Together, mom and dad led by example. They survived life’s hardships, including the loss of a child and aggressive cancer diagnoses, while sometimes struggling to make ends meet. 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.
Over the years, it’s been amazing to see the positive impact community leaders in El Paso have made through their gifts. While we lack the resources to give back in the same way, our parents taught us that it doesn’t matter how much you give, what truly matters is that you simply give.
Though we’ve dedicated our lives to service and students individually, we’ve recently decided to follow our parents’ example and give back to our community together as siblings. Later this year, we will announce a scholarship for Foster School of Medicine students from El Paso that honors our parents’ lives and our sister’s memory. The long-term goal is to support our Borderplex community that we were lucky to be born into by helping to grow our own future physicians through world-class health education.
We remember the early grassroots movements for a four-year medical school in El Paso. Today, we’re awestruck to see how the Foster School of Medicine has evolved into Texas Tech Health El Paso with a nursing school, dental school and biomedical sciences graduate school. Along with the incoming Steve and Nancy Fox Cancer Center, we can say this is what we, and so many others, wanted for El Paso long ago.
We knew then, and still believe, that El Paso deserves what Los Angeles, New York and Chicago have. We deserve a vibrant community with a focus on health sciences and ample health care access for everyone. El Paso deserves the type of excellent cancer centers available in other large metropolitan areas. Because of the strides made and through community giving, we believe families experiencing health obstacles like we did will be able to receive the care they need here at home.
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. 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 students are more likely to stay close to home and help our community to practice, we know our gift will lead to advances in health care in our Borderplex.
While we hope our ability to give grows, we know our first scholarship, and all local charitable giving, supports the people and economic development of El Paso. Giving provides opportunities. We hope our scholarship plays a part in inspiring and encouraging El Paso students toward the healthcare field, to learn in a quality academic health care program like those offered at Texas Tech Health El Paso.
We hope it supports more El Paso students to dedicate their careers to serving the people of our community, and to consider supporting the academic endeavors of more future El Paso health professionals.
If there’s one characteristic about our family, and all El Pasoans, it’s that we have each others’ and our community’s back. We do what we can to ensure the best future for our children and future generations. In honor of National Philanthropy Day, we know that our giving story is just one of many giving stories throughout our El Paso community, and we hope it’s one of many more.
Aaron Daniel Cervantes, J.D., is an executive director of development at the University of California Los Angeles.
Alyssa Cervantes Benavides, Ph.D., M.P.A., is managing director of the Office of Interprofessional Education at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
Andrew David Cervantes, M.B.A., is a senior college alumni advisor at San Antonio Independent School District and an adjunct faculty member at Alamo Colleges.
To learn more about how community support is improving lives and empowering generations at TTUHSC El Paso, visit ttuhscepimpact.org.