ScholarShot Helps a Record 44 First-Generation Students Graduate with College Degrees

Story by Jan Osborn. Photos courtesy of ScholarShot.

Dan Hooper, Executive Director, ScholarShot. (Photo by Jan Osborn.)

Dan Hooper, Executive Director, ScholarShot. (Photo by Jan Osborn.)

ScholarShot, a Dallas-based nonprofit, recently recognized 44 first-generation college graduates from its program. These students join 100 past ScholarShot graduates on the path to future career success. Founded in 2009, ScholarShot has one focus—helping students exit poverty with career-ready degrees. 

“It is a joy and an honor to celebrate these wonderful, first-generation graduates,” says Dan Hooper, ScholarShot’s Executive Director. “Our Scholars have overcome a lot, including succeeding through the COVID pandemic, to earn these life-changing degrees.” Hooper continued, “If we’re going to advise our high school graduates properly, we need to be sure they enter post-secondary programs with a high likelihood of success and the support they need and deserve.”

University of North Texas graduate, Melva Yanes was born and raised in Dallas, in a single-parent household where her family inspired her to work hard on her education. Because of her determination, Melva was accepted to Trinidad Garza Early College High School. This program motivated Melva to continue her education and strive for success. “I did it! I graduated with both my High School Diploma and Associate Degree of Arts at the age of 18,” Melva says. “This was only the beginning of the many more accomplishments that I experienced during my education career.” 

Melva was very active and involved with ScholarShot. One of her favorite memories with ScholarShot was the Corporate Day events. “I had the opportunity to visit several places such as Bioworld Merchandising, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Invitation Homes, and Texas Instruments,” Melva says. “It was a great experience because I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and familiarize myself with these corporations that are located here in the DFW area. I am so glad that ScholarShot hosted these events because it helped me build up professionalism and networking skills.”

Melva at the University of North Texas campus. (Photo courtesy of ScholarShot.)

Melva at the University of North Texas campus. (Photo courtesy of ScholarShot.)

Melva attended the University of North Texas in Denton and graduated Magna Cum Laude in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a double minor in Journalism and Spanish. 

Melva credits ScholarShot with helping her fulfill her dreams of higher education. “ScholarShot did an amazing job helping me every step of my education. It all started way before I set foot on the UNT campus. I was very prepared to begin a new journey at a four-year university and I knew that I was not alone because I had the full support of ScholarShot.” 

Melva maintained active communication with her Academic Manager, Carlos Valadez. “Carlos was a great support and patient with me answering all kinds of questions about my financial aid, degree plan, and selecting classes each semester,” she says. “I am tremendously grateful for the ScholarShot staff who were my cheerleaders and motivated me to fulfill my dream of being the first of my family to receive a college degree.” Melva credits the ScholarShot mission statement “Changing Lives with College Degrees” to seek an accounting role within the nonprofit sector. “Without ScholarShot support I would not be where I am now,” Melva says. “THANK YOU SCHOLARSHOT!”

Carlos Valadez, ScholarShot’s Director of Scholar Success, sees students succeeding not only in spite of their hardship, but also because of it. “Our Scholars all come from diverse backgrounds,” he says. “They have fought and overcome many obstacles to reach this pivotal accomplishment that no one can ever take away from them. The Scholars are now creating a brand-new path for themselves while impacting their immediate circle of influence. We are incredibly proud of their hard work and know they will do amazing things from this point moving forward.”


Nathan Barragan holding his diploma at the University of North Texas. (Photo courtesy of ScholarShot.)

Nathan Barragan holding his diploma at the University of North Texas. (Photo courtesy of ScholarShot.)

Nathan Barragan graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Science Kinesiology degree after receiving his Associates of Science at Eastfield College. Nathan is the oldest of three children and graduated from Skyline High School. He joined the Dallas Mayor Intern’s Fellows Program in 2017 and was connected to ScholarShot as a high school senior.

Nathan expressed his gratitude for ScholarShot by providing him with all the essential information to succeed in school. “I didn’t really know much about college,” he says. “But they were able to assist in giving me feedback on what to do in certain situations (class registration, emails, clubs, etc.)  since they are all people with college experiences.” Nathan plans to pursue a career in Physical Therapy and looks forward to working as a technician.

ScholarShot continues to help students exit poverty by completing career-ready vocational, associates, or bachelor’s degrees. Leveraging the success of the ScholarShot model, the Degree Dallas Campaign is on track to produce 500 first generation college degrees from Dallas County.

ScholarShot acknowledges the support of its corporate underwriters for its Graduate Luncheon: Austin Industries, Bank of Texas, CBRE, and HEB. The virtual event is still available to view on YouTube, and if you are interested in learning more about ScholarShot, visit

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