Santa Fe couple’s scholarships a big breakthrough for college-bound grads

Andrew Davis, left, greets Alejandra Palos, 18, while Marcos Mendoza, 18 looks on during a graduation reception for students in the Breakthrough Santa Fe program Thursday at Santa Fe Prep. Breakthrough participants Palos and Mendoza are two of five students who are receiving college scholarship funds from Davis and his wife, Sydney. The couple have pledged $250,000 a year for five Breakthrough grads and one New Mexico State University student. Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

Patricia Armendariz screamed at the top of her lungs when her son, Cruz, walked into the house and gave her the good news.

He is graduating from Santa Fe Preparatory School this year and heading to St. Edward’s University in Austin on a four-year scholarship — thanks to Santa Fe philanthropists Andrew and Sydney Davis.

Five high school seniors and a New Mexico State University freshman have been named as Davis Breakthrough Scholars and will collectively receive about $250,000 per year to pay for their education.

All the students were enrolled in Breakthrough Santa Fe, a 10-year-old program at Santa Fe Prep that provides a six-week summer intensive for students in grades 6-12. The program includes core classes in math, reading, writing and science and two electives. There are only six or seven students in each class of the free program.

The scholarship recipients all enrolled in the program as they were entering the seventh grade.

For the past few years, the Davises have given $5,000 scholarships to Breakthrough students to help them afford college. This year, they upped the scholarships to cover tuition, books and supplies.

Andrew Davis said Wednesday before the Breakthrough Santa Fe graduation, held at Santa Fe Prep, that college students face enough challenges just trying to stay focused in class without having to take on additional worry by working to pay for college.

He said he and his wife are committed to three more years of providing the scholarships for future Breakthrough Santa Fe graduates.

According to Sam Ritter, associate director of the Breakthrough program, the six were chosen after presenting their cases before a selection committee of administrators and educators.

The recipients are attending St. Edward’s University, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and the University of Denver, all of which have an average annual tuition of $50,000. Those universities agreed to cover 25 percent of the students’ tuition and cost-of-attendance and work with them to ensure they stay on track and are academically successful. The Davis scholarship also covers room, board, and travel expenses.

Most of the scholarship students are the first in their family to attend college.

Armendariz, who hopes to become a doctor, said, “I come from roots where there is no money to go to college. My parents didn’t even have money to go to high school.”

Santa Fe Indian School senior Danella Hall will use the scholarship money to study biology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Denver. Without this opportunity, she said, “I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.” She said in her Native culture, it is appropriate to give a gift to someone who has given something to you, so she presented Andrew Davis with a Pendleton wool blanket embroidered with the couple’s names.

Capital High School senior Alejandra Palos said without the scholarship, she would be attending Santa Fe Community College. She plans to focus on global studies and psychology at St. Edward’s University. Her mother, who cleans houses for a living, never went to college. She pushed Palos to succeed. “She is my inspiration,” Palos said.

The other Davis Breakthrough Scholars are Capital High senior Marcos Mendoza, Academy for Technology and the Classics senior Takeshi Kobayashi and New Mexico State University freshman Andrew Martinez, all of whom will be attending the University of Denver.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or