ECU student Alexis Benitez (center) poses with ECU President Katricia Pierson and Gavin Burl, president of the ECU Student Government, after Benitez was recently named the winner of the George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship.
As a son of immigrant parents, East Central University sophomore student Alexis Benitez, called Alex for short, is highly motivated to attend law school.
A first-generation student and the first in his immediate family to attend college, Benitez is pursuing a degree in political science and legal studies and was recently named the winner of the 2018 George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship, an award presented to college students who are preparing for careers in public service.
“It’s a huge honor…probably the biggest honor I have ever received,” said Benitez. “It’s been a long process to get where I’m at. My parents (Zenaido and Yvett-Nancy Benitez) weren’t able to go to college. They didn’t have the opportunity, but I do.”
Zanaido immigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1977 at the age of 17 and Yvett-Nancy came to the U.S. in 1992 at the age of 18.
“When they came as immigrants, all they had were the clothes on their back,” Alex said. “It’s been a huge motivation for me and they have always supported me and encouraged me.”
Alex admitted that he was pessimistic, at first, about going to college, but his counselor at Healdton High School, Mrs. (Angie) Munholland, encouraged and guided him on a path which has led to the pursuit of a higher education degree.
He attended Murray State College in Tishomingo to secure some basic credits and is now at ECU with aspirations of completing his bachelor’s degree and then ultimately studying immigration law.
Alex describes his ECU experience as life-changing.
ECU has changed my life. It’s been great and has had a great impact on what I am and what I will be,” said Alex. “I wouldn’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t attend here.”
He is the youngest of four siblings. He has an older brother and two older sisters.
Alex was nominated for the award by Gavin Burl, president of the ECU Student Council.
The $1,000 George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship was established by the 1999 Oklahoma Legislature to provide scholarship opportunities to outstanding students who are preparing for careers in public service. A component of the scholarship program is participation in seminars on public service offered by the Nigh Institute.
Benitez represents ECU in the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature and has served as a delegation vice chair and is in the senate. He is also a member of ECU’s Speech and Debate Team and is a part of ECU’s Young Democrats.
His honors and awards include the ECU Dean’s Honor Roll for the spring and fall semesters of 2017 and Murray State College President’s Honor Roll in the fall of 2016, along with being the recipient of the Francisco-Hatchet Scholarship and the Greater Ardmore Scholarship.