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Three sisters push each other to excel at Midland College and beyond July 29, 2019

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Photo (From left to right): Maria Sigala, Juanita Dominguez and Martha Negrete.

Martha, Maria and Juanita are somewhat of a dynasty at Midland College. The sisters all received the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship. That award completely paid for their books, tuition and fees at MC and the University of Texas Permian Basin where they each received a bachelor’s degree in business management.

The girls are three of eight siblings. During the interview for this article, the sisters spoke candidly about how they did not believe they were going to attend or graduate from college.

“We pretty much did not think we were going to go to college because my parents did not make enough money to pay for all of us,” Maria Sigala said.

The Villegas family moved from Mexico to the U.S. when the children were very young. Their parents did not speak English so the kids learned the language in school.

“It was a total cultural change,” Martha Negrete said. “I am lucky I had great teachers who really worked with me through English as a Second Language classes. It was hard to figure out the next step after high school because my parents had not graduated. I did not have a set role model to follow. Thankfully, Mrs. Estorga from Communities in Schools told me about the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship.”

Fortunately for Maria and Juanita, Martha became the first in their family to receive a college degree and she took on the job of role model.

“Martha was the biggest encouragement for me to keep going with my education,” Maria said. “I pretty much followed in her footsteps; I would take some of the same professors she said were inspiring. It was really funny when teachers would discover we were all related. Then I got to be the role model for my little sister, Juanita.  We basically had a chain pulling us all through. Our parents supported us in everything we did, as well. They could not help us find a college or look for ways to pay for our education, but when we told them about the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship, they completely supported us.”

“Our parents are so proud we achieved something they did not have the opportunity to do,” Martha said. “Going from high school to college seemed like a completely different world. It was an adjustment trying to figure out what college was all about and figuring how could I excel. It was a learning experience, but in my head I was thinking, ‘I have to go because I have a scholarship; everything is free!’”

“The Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship was a blessing,” Maria said. “It is one of the only reasons we were able to get our degree. We never thought we would graduate--nevertheless graduate with zero school loans. I think everybody we know has student debt. We really appreciate what this scholarship has done for our family. It is a very special scholarship to us.”

Since its inception in 1997, the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship has assisted more than 400 students. Scholarship alumni have advanced to become police detectives, engineers, kindergarten teachers, healthcare professionals and social workers in Midland and Odessa.

“This scholarship is special because of the opportunities it opens for the recipient and the community,” Martha said. “Just think of how much more robust the workforce is because the community has great access to higher education. More individuals and families have more opportunities to grow and find meaningful jobs and careers. With his donation, Mr. Bill Pace Cogdell has changed so many lives. Even through he did not have any children, he will live on in the gratitude of all his college-educated scholarship recipients.”

Photo (From left to right): Maria Sigala, Juanita Dominguez and Martha Negrete.

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