Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Although the nonprofit gets the most attention in April, when Rey Feo is crowned and the festivities of Fiesta flood downtown, the organization does its heavy philanthropic lifting at the beginning of August. Scholarships for the coming school year are awarded to students across Texas Educational Region 20, which includes Bexar County and 17 surrounding counties.
On Friday, Rey Feo LXIX Fred Reyes presented $346,000 in scholarships to 173 local students in the McAllister Auditorium at San Antonio College. A majority of this year’s scholarship recipients are first-generation college students who come from single-parent, low-income homes, according to the foundation’s website.
“It’s about the overall betterment of the community” Reyes said. “By giving this money to these students that allows them to go to college, we’re hoping they come back and take that knowledge they’ve accumulated and make this a better community.”
Reyes is a San Antonio business leader known for his community engagement. He is the CEO of SiteB Data Services, a member of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the son of Rey Feo LX Fernando Reyes.
Prior to awarding the scholarships, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation spoke about the growth and success of the scholarship program, outlined the importance of education, and offered advice to the scholarship recipients.
“Education, education, and education. This is what we as a community come together to celebrate, and why we are here this evening,” said Rey Feo LXI and Regent of the Rey Feo Educational Foundation Charlie Garza.”It is all about the students and, of course, our future.”
Rey Feo LXII, Corporate President of the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation and President Emeritus of LULAC Council No. 2 Johnny Gabriel urged students not to simply “coast” through college.
“The most important thing that I’ve found out is, basically, what you learn and what you put in your mind, this is one thing nobody can ever take away from you,” he said. “This is the best opportunity you have to be successful in life. Please don’t waste what you have put before you.”
Fred Reyes came onstage joined by members of his family and court as well as by three characters from Star Wars, who represented the theme of Reyes’ scholarship campaign, “The Force of Education.”
“‘You have taken your first step into a much larger world,'” Reyes quoted from the first Star Wars film to describe the leap into college. “That is what education is all about. It expands your universe. It opens doors. ”
The idea of “the Ugly King,” better understood as “the People’s King,” has its roots in medieval Spain, when common citizens resented the king for surrounding himself with members of the beautiful, self-absorbed aristocracy. They gathered in the plaza to demand their own king – coarse, common, and in touch with the realities of everyday life.
The Rey Feo festival was revived in the New World at La Feria de San Marcos in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Then, in 1947, members of the LULAC)Council No. 2 created the Rey Feo celebration in San Antonio to raise scholarship money for underprivileged youth. In 1980, Rey Feo officially became a part of Fiesta.
In keeping with the spirit of its name, Rey Feo’s court spends most of the year on community outreach and the scholarship program. Throughout the year, Rey Feo will visit hospitals, orphanages, and elementary schools around the region, raising awareness of his mission and encouraging young children to excel beyond the apparent bounds of their current situations.
From May to October, two San Antonio business leaders, chosen by the current Rey Feo and former Reyes – known as the Consejo Real de Reyes Anteriores – compete to raise funds for the organization. The winner achieves the honor of being the next Rey Feo, and the runner-up becomes next year’s crown designate. To qualify, each business leader must raise a minimum $225,000, of which more than 85% goes directly to scholarships.
Since 1947, the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation has awarded over $7 million in scholarships for higher education to over 3,000 Texas students, according to the foundation’s website.
Scholarship applications are open each year from December to March to students from Texas Education Region 20.
At the end of the ceremony, long time LULAC Council No. 2 President and President Emeritus Tom Sandoval spoke about the history of LULAC and its ties to education as a source of empowerment and a path toward success for all people.
“You can do good if you want to,” Sandoval reminded students. “If you want to succeed, the doors are always open. If it’s not that door, it’s another door. Don’t give up.”