As graduating seniors across the region prepare for the next step in their future education, nearly 120 will be getting help from an area corporation. The students who received this series of $1,000 grants cover the majority of Texoma and represent more than 32 high schools.

“It is kind of amazing that there are things out there like this to apply for because college can be so expensive,” Emily Minchey, a recipient from Savoy, said Thursday.

The scholarships were presented through Ruiz 4 Kids, a non-profit arm of Denison food manufacturer Ruiz Foods aimed at assisting students and families in need. Currently the non-profit focuses on two education programs that offer scholarships for graduating seniors and mini grants for area teachers.

“We are thrilled to assist in the continued education of local high school and college students,” Ruiz representative Rebeckah Flanagan said in a press release. “We could not be more excited at our ability to award such a large amount to children in our community and help them achieve their dreams of higher education. Ruiz 4 Kids looks forward to witnessing their achievements.”

For Minchey, the idea to apply for the scholarship came as her mother was browsing yearbooks. As a home-schooled student, Minchey said she and her parents were looking through various avenues for financial assistance for college.

This and two other scholarships she received will help Minchey attend the University of Texas at Dallas later this fall. Minchey said she plans to pursue a degree in childhood learning and development but said she did not know where this would take her as that can be a broad field of study.

Despite this, Minchey said she would like to pursue a career in education, with plans to pursue a teaching certificate, so that she can help students who have learning difficulties.

“I have my own learning struggles, so I have a personal responsibility to this,” she said. “(This grant) will definitely help me along the way, that’s for sure.”

With this year’s scholarships, the Denison Ruiz location has given $714,000 since it first participated in the program in 2007. Since 1987, the scholarship has awarded more than $3 million to students near all of Ruiz’s manufacturing facilities.

In order to apply for the grant, students must live in a district within 50 miles of a Ruiz Foods location and not have a family member affiliated with the employer, Ruiz Cares ambassador Jeanne Ulcak said in a phone interview this week. Students were asked to write two essays, with one based on a prompt by the company, which were then read by three team members at the Denison location.

For JayQuan “Ty” McFail, the first essay was about who he was as a person. The essay reflected his current role as a student athlete with aspirations to help people through working as a physical therapist, he said.

“(I am) pretty much a football kid with dreams of giving back to others,” he said.

Unlike Minchey, McFail said he heard about the scholarship from a school counsellor.

“The secretary to the principal is a good friend of mine, so they let me know,” he said.

McFail said thanks to the scholarship, he plans to go to Eastern New Mexico University before transferring to the University of Colorado to study physical therapy. He said that he has received athletic scholarships, but was unsure where the money would come from for his books and other expenses.