Kiwanis Club of Little Havana makes college dreams come true for 17 students

For some high school students, taking the next step is as easy as a choice, an application and an acceptance letter. But others lack the means to attend college.

Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana Foundation, 17 students were provided those means during a scholarship reception July 1 at the Tower Theater in Little Havana.

Cynthia Rodriguez, a Cuban-American student from Killian Senior High School, plans to pursue a double major in psychology and business, with the help of the Kiwanis Club.

She encouraged other students in a similar position not to give up, even if they face financial obstacles.

“There are so many scholarships out there,” she said. “Don’t use [money] as an excuse not to go.”

The scholarship is specific to Hispanic students living in Miami Dade County. Students receive a full-time, four-year scholarship for tuition, books or both. Award amounts vary depending their income level, the tuition cost of the school they attend and other scholarships or grants they have been awarded. They can re-apply when their award runs out, depending on their current grades.

With the 17 new students, the program expands to a total of 58 with scholarships this year. Students in the program attend schools all over the United States and hail from Central and South America.

About 70 attendees, including past scholarship winners, friends, family members, past presidents and sponsors, were at the reception, which was sponsored by AT&T, Coca-Cola, BMW and the Do Unto Others Trust.

Javier Flores was accompanied by his mother, Sandra, and his younger brother, Justin, who were both very proud.

He said joining the Key Club as a student at Miami Senior High School led him to his first job as an intern for the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana.

“If you have a dream, chase it,” Flores said. “Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something when you can do it.”

Now, Flores is seeking a degree in aerospace engineering at Florida State University.

“You’re always going to have bumps in the road,” he said, “but that’s when you really have to continue on moving and fighting toward your goal.”

Andre Dunand, who is moving toward a degree in sports medicine and athletic training at Florida State University, offers the following advice: “There’s just no point in waking up and being miserable. If you’re doing what you love, there’s no reason for things to not fall in place.”

The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana began nearly three decades ago as a block party to raise money for children in need. Since then, events like Calle Ocho and Carnaval Miami helped build a financial foundation.

Tony Lorenzo, current president of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, remembers helping distribute Christmas toys to kids in need. Through doing what he loved, he was inspired to become a key member of the Kiwanis Club.

“Seeing the priceless smiles on their faces and seeing how happy the kids were was what really grabbed me and got my attention,” Lorenzo said.

“Everything we do is so rewarding … everything goes right back to the community,” he said.

Lorenzo noted that past presidents of the club continue to stay involved in events and help incoming presidents, such as Jerry Fernandez.

“We always try to do a little tweaking to stay with the times,” Fernandez said, “but one of the strongest things we have is our traditions.”

Fernandez reminds scholarship winners that getting into a good school is the beginning of a whole new chapter.

“This is a great opportunity,” he said, “but not if you don’t couple it with hard work — that’s the great equalizer in life.”

The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana starts accepting new applications for scholarships in January and encourages students to join Key Clubs, participate in events including Carnaval on the Mile, and volunteer for community events to continue to help others in need.

For scholarships applications, community events and more information on the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, visit

Scholarship recipients

▪ Johana Arcila-Marin

▪ Nereyda Cardero

▪ Lisset Chavez

▪ Andre Dunand

▪ Javier Flores

▪ Jason Gutierrez

▪ Jose Gutierrez

▪ Liliana Hernandez

▪ Mariangel Lopez

▪ Steven Ortiz

▪ Angie Pavon

▪ Natalia Pedre

▪ Andy Pinto-Castillo

▪ Cynthia Rodriguez

▪ Mara Rodriguez

▪ Marc Rodriguez

▪ Francisco Villanueva