Alumni Boost Scholarships as Rodeo Volunteers
In red and white face paint and a cowboy hat, a class of 1971 alumnus wears a traditional rodeo clown costume in true bullfighter fashion to promote the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “Stripes” the clown visits schools, seniors or business groups to educate people about the mission of HLS&R.
“We are walking eye candy for the Rodeo,” Stripes said. “We add levity, color and excitement for various events.”
The alumnus – who prefers not to use his real name while in costume – has been volunteering at the Rodeo for 18 years, and he works with children at the Lil’ Rustlers Rodeo and the Top Hands horse show. “I spend a lot of time with special needs children at the Rodeo,” Stripes said.
Stripes is one of more than a dozen alumni, faculty and staff members who volunteer at the annual Houston attraction, which is committed to providing more than $12 million in student scholarships in 2013.
Rodeo Volunteers Help Children
Alumna Misty Bryan, M.Ed. ’12, enjoys working with kids at the Rodeo and for Pasadena I.S.D. in dyslexia and reading intervention. She volunteers for HLS&R’s Communications and Special Services Committee, photographing calf scramble participants, contest winners and Go Texan events.
“My favorite part of volunteering at the Rodeo is seeing the kids meet up with their parents and the people who have donated calves after they have caught a calf in the calf scramble,” Bryan said.
Diana Garcia, administrative assistant for the Center for International Studies, has the envious job of helping young kids take a wild ride on sheep as a committeeman on the Mutton Bustin committee. She also volunteers for the Gatekeepers Committee.
“The kids are really excited to ride the sheep,” Garcia said. “The sheep sometimes fall and roll over the kids. Most of them jump up and hold their arms up and very few cry.”
Generations of Service
For many volunteers, their service to the Rodeo is a tradition passed down through generations.
Melissa DeMontrond ’11, general manager at DeMontrond Texas City, is vice chairman of the Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites event, which hosts more than 4,000 guests to Reliant Hall to showcase wines and Houston-area restaurants. She is also a committeeman for the Wine Sales Committee, Special Children’s Committee and Mutton Bustin’ Committee. She said all of her grandparents and both of her parents, including former UST Board of Directors Chair George DeMontrond, were actively involved in the Rodeo.
“My grandfather Gracey was involved with the show from the beginning, when it started at the Coliseum downtown,” she said. “So it’s in my blood.”
Maria Younger, assistant director of annual giving, has been volunteering for 24 years. Her husband and father-in-law were also volunteers. Younger is a committeeman on the International Committee, which hosts international visitors during International Days. International ranchers and businessmen visit for agricultural workshops, conferences and livestock purchases.
“We create long lasting friendships with international guests from these events,” Younger said. “We know them by first name and are invited to their homes and ranches in their own countries.”
HLS&R Supports Scholarships
Most of the UST volunteers say their service makes it possible for HLS&R to provide more scholarships for students.
Mari Salazar ’95, MBA ’99, is the senior vice president for energy lending at Bank of Texas. In her third year of volunteering, she is captain of the Go Tejano Committee, which organizes a Scholarship Gala, and she is a committeeman for Ladies Go Texan, which works with AgVenture to teach kids and adults about animals.
As a Rodeo volunteer for 17 years, and a lifetime member of the HLS&R, Don Clayton, UST manager of Facilities Operations, enjoys serving on the BBQ Committee, promoting the heritage of Texas and supporting education.
“It is rewarding to me to know that students are attending college on HLS&R scholarships, especially when a student comes here to UST,” Clayton said.
Yolanda Vasquez Foster ’96 was one of those Rodeo scholarship recipients at UST. A business alumna, she is an executive vaccine representative at Merck & Co., Inc., and she serves as a committeeman on Ladies Go Texan and Go Tejano committees. It is her third year volunteering at the Rodeo.
“I was a Go Tejano Committee scholarship recipient and wanted to give back to the group that was generous to me,” Foster said. “The scholarship I received from the Rodeo is one of the reasons I was able to attend UST.”
In fact, 11 UST students received HLS&R scholarships this year, in amounts ranging from $1,875 to $4,000 per semester.
Amy Tanner ’03, director of development and Marketing for Music Doing Good, Inc., who is on the Communications & Special Services and Magazine committees, is a rookie who said she couldn’t wait to get more involved in the Rodeo.
“With over 100 committees and 28,000 volunteers, there’s something for everyone!” she said.
Other UST volunteers at the Rodeo include Steve Toomey ’71, an attorney and Speakers committeeman; Jessica Domann, director of recreational sports and athletics’ senior woman administrator, who is a Gatekeepers committeeman; Bobby Warren ’02, an attorney and a rookie on the Chute Club Committee under the Corral Club Committee; Julie Sacco ’96, a communications employee at Shell Oil Company, who is a 10-year Rodeo veteran, Division Chairman and Gatekeepers committeeman; and Michael J. Upchurch, MLA ’01, a 30-year volunteer and adjunct professor of political science.
Hats off to these alumni and all the HLS&R volunteers who support the Rodeo’s educational mission, even if it just seems like they’re “clowning around.”