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Gathering the family

published: February 9th 2018
by: Caitlin Richards

The family is getting together - that is the Houston Livestock Show and RodeoTM (HLSR) scholarship recipient family. Since the HLSR began in 1932, more than $450 million has been committed to the youth of Texas. HLSR gave their very first scholarship in 1957 to Ben Dickerson of Houston. Since then, 17,000 scholarships have been given.

“For a long time, the scholarship portion of the HLSR consisted of one person administering the scholarship program and sending checks to students,” Amy Moroney, the educational programs exe-cutive director said. “We didn’t have much of a relationship with them other than that.” 
With giving an estimated 750 scholarships annually to Texas students, the HLSR scholar family continues to grow exponentially. While in school and attending current scholar events and activities, recipients are alongside friends they’ve had in high school or make in college and meet new friends. All, of course, are a part of the scholar family. 
“Once our students graduated we really lost track of them and didn’t keep in touch,” Moroney said. “So as the HLSR has grown and the organization has changed, we realized all of the possibilities of bringing our alumni back, especially within our organization where we have volunteer opportunities.” 
The idea for the HLSR Scholarship Alumni Asso-ciation was born. The hope for it would be for scholarship recipients to continue their connection with the HLSR. Additionally, the HLSR is able to see the successes of the Texas students they supported. 
“We want to reach out and make that connection with our alumni again,” Moroney said. “We want to interact with them and find out where they are in the world and what their successes are. Then possibly bring them back to be involved in the annual event, if they would like to volunteer or get involved with our current scholars as well.”
Joining the group provides members a chance to give back to the community and organization, connect with current scholars and network with past scholars. Any scholarship recipient from 1957 to now is able to join. This includes Metro-politan, Opportunity, Tex-as 4-H, Texas FFA, Area Go Texan, School Art, Exhibitors, Hildebrand, Military, and Achievement scholarship recipients. 
There is no cost to join, unlike other alumni associations students may be familiar with, such as their university alma mater. Usually to join these alumni associations, students are asked to make a donation or some other kind of monetary contribution. With the HLSR Alumni Association, that is not the purpose.  
“Truly our purpose is to get our alumni together and engaged with one another, the HLSR and our current scholars,” Moro-ney  said. 
Alumni who received a four-year, undergraduate HLSR scholarship and graduated college with a degree are eligible for a complimentary life membership with the HLSR. That is a $500 value and is usually purchased by individuals who want to volunteer with the HLSR. Some type of membership is required to serve on the 108 committees that help make all of HLSR’s activities and events possible. However, serving on a committee is not required of life members. 
In addition to the opportunity to volunteer, the primary benefits of the life membership include a subscription to the HLSR’s quarterly “Bowlegged H” Magazine, early access to purchase rodeo tickets, and admission to the livestock and horse shows, exhibits, carnival and the HLSR World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. 
The HLSR Alumni Association officially laun-ched in October of 2015 with the first “Annual Alumni Association Din-ner”. At the time, there were only about 200 members. Since then, the group has grown to 838 members. Lauren Walstad the scholarship and alumni programs coordinator, has been helping grow the program since she came to HLSR in 2016.  
“We have really been focusing on finding our alumni, reaching out to them and letting them know that once they graduate, we want to stay connected with them,” Walstad said. “I started with 200 people in our alumni association and now we are rapidly growing. But we still have over 16,000 more people we need to find.”  
Currently, the main activities for members are the Annual Alumni Dinner and monthly socials. The HLSR Annual Alumni Dinner is considered the capstone event for the association. All members will be invited to attend each year to connect back with the group. 
With over 300 members in the Houston area, the monthly socials are primarily in Houston. They have ranged from happy hours and coffee meet-ups, to visiting a unique popsicle place, and attending a Sugar Land Skeeters game. 
Additionally, members have coordinated other activities together, such as a HLSR Rodeo Run team. At the 2018 HLSR, the Alumni Asso-ciation will be hosting a happy hour for members at the Champion Wine Garden inside the HLSR grounds at Carruth Plaza at NRG Park on Thursday, March 1. 
In 2018, the HLSR Alumni Association is hoping to host events in other cities, as well. Already, they have hosted a happy hour in Austin and in February they will be having a dinner social in Huntsville. So far, the events have been both only for alumni, and an alumni and current scholars combined event. 
Eventually, the association hopes to follow a city or area chapter model where there are socials and activities all throughout the state and even country for members. As more members continue to join, Walstad and Moroney hope more activities, socials, and ideas will come.  
“Right now, we are really just trying to find people,” Moroney said. “We have to find people and reach out before we can really start building these programs. We have so many ideas, especially with our alumni and the graduating seniors. We hope to start a career connect type event.”
The goal for the HLSR Alumni Association is to have about 5,000 members. Past scholarship recipients can join by emailing Lauren Walstad at alumni@hlsr.com. She will get those interested all of the information needed to join the HLSR Alumni Asso-ciation and claim their Life Membership. 
“The main purpose is to reconnect with our family,” Moroney said. “We try to communicate with our scholars, especially now as we communicate with them about their scholarships, is that they are a part of the family. Now, with the HLSR Alumni Associa-tion, we can reiterate it even more.” 
More information a-bout the HLSR Alumni Association is also available at rodeohouston.com under the Educational Support section. The group also has an exclusive Facebook page where past recipients can request access to join. To find the closed group, search Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship Alumni on Facebook.

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