First recipient of Desert Dreamer scholarship selected


The Desert Dreamer Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a big heart for high school students and their future. After launching an essay scholarship program earlier this year, Desert Dreamer awarded its very first scholarship to local student Katia Villarreal.

In response to being selected as the very first recipient, Villarreal said, “It was a complete shock to me. We all thought my friend was going to be the winner.”

Thinking back on the experience, Villarreal continued, “I got a phone call from a Miami number, so I didn't answer. I didn't know who it was. When I checked my voicemail it was Laura calling about the Desert Dreamer scholarship.... I'm very grateful for this scholarship, and I was so surprised that they actually selected me.”

Going into detail on the selection process, President and founder of the Desert Dreamer Foundation Laura Chao said, “This is just year-one for Desert Dreamer. Right now, my Board consists of my mother and my sister, and so the three of us read through all the submitted essays together....We were in absolute awe; every essay was amazing. After reading through the essays, we naturally gravitated towards Katia. This was before we even went over them collectively. We all just fell in love with her. It was her sense of knowing what she wanted, her desire to give back to her parents, and her overall ambition – she was already a winner.”

Shedding light on her ambitions for the Desert Dreamer Foundation,Chao said, “Right now the focus is Fort Stockton, but I would love toreach other cities in the surrounding areas. I plan to expand, but the first one had to be in Fort Stockton. I had to give back to my roots and Katia was the perfect fit. Even though I don't live here anymore, this is still my home. This is where I was born and raised. The students here are the future of Fort Stockton. That's why I created Desert Dreamer. I want to invest in that future.”

Echoing Chao's statement, the Desert Dreamer Foundation's official Facebook page declares, “The goal of Desert Dreamer is to help fill the financial gaps for students and to open their eyes to different worlds, different cultures and endless opportunities.”

Chao says the Desert Dreamer Foundation strives to be a more personable scholarship program. She has stayed in close contact with Villarreal and even plans to attend her college graduation. Chao and Villarreal reunited in Fort Stockton Thursday, July 20. The two spent time together and visited the newly renovated exhibits at the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum.

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