Program Continues to Provide Opportunities, Bring Diversity to Rockhurst Community


Hurtado Scholars

2018 Graduates of the Hurtado Scholars program, most of whom will graduate from Rockhurst in May 2023.

Julian Garcia, Staff Reporter

The Hurtado Scholars program has helped to diversify the Rockhurst student body while it’s been at the school. Hurtado graduates achieve good grades and have many aspirations for the future but sometimes say they feel overlooked. Since its founding, the Hurtado Scholars program has been an integral part of Rockhurst.

Started by Fr. William Sheehan, S.J. in 2013, the Hurtado Scholars program works with academically gifted, incoming 6th grade students. The program was created to help diversify the Rockhurst student body by helping to bridge the gap between underserved communities and a Jesuit education. It pulls gifted students from inner city schools and minority communities to Rockhurst.

The goal of this program “is to take students that we know have so much potential, but through no fault of their own, just haven’t had, the educational opportunities and the life opportunities before coming to Rockhurst to get them ready to be leaders in our world,” said Anthony Re, Director of the Hurtado Scholars program.

Bridging this gap doesn’t just mean providing students with financial aid. Hurtado Scholars start from middle school, because the school realized that you can’t just give students “a bunch of money so that [they] can afford [Rockhurst], and just throw them into classes. That wouldn’t be fair to them,” said Re. 

After all, nearly half (46%) of the Rockhurst student body takes advantage of the financial aid opportunities provided by the school, according to the school’s admissions office. Therefore, giving Hurtado students the ability to come to Rockhurst needed to extend beyond financial assistance.

“If you look at our traditional student body and the schools that they [attended] for grade school…they’re really well prepared to come here,” Re continued, “and when you’re looking at schools that are working with students, many of whom live in poverty…[Rockhurst] wanted to make sure that not only could our scholar grads…survive here, but that they would thrive here.”

Some current students who graduated from Hurtado see the benefits of the program, but say not enough people know about it.

“It’s a name that some people have heard through announcements, but…Rockhurst could definitely improve its promotion of Hurtado related activities and/or fundraisers,” said AJ Murphy ‘23.

A stereotype that some Hurtado graduates feel surrounds the program is that “Hurtado Scholars [are] not as hard working as the other students, not as intelligent, or not as ready for this level of education as the other students may be,” said Gabriel Gonzales ’23. 

On the other hand, Vincent Tran ’23 noted that he feels many people expect Hurtado graduates to be “exceptional in class and…to take higher level classes.”

Regardless of any stigmas or stereotypes surrounding the graduates of this program, these students aspire to continue their education and contribute to our community.

Murphy wants to become a mechanical engineer and aspires “to make the world a better place…through [his] works.”

Gonzales aspires to someday own his own shoe store in Kansas City.

Tran, while still undecided, would like to enter the medical field, start his own business, or go into the culinary industry.

Hurtado Scholar graduates like Elmer Puga ‘24 are grateful for the opportunities that Rockhurst has provided them. This school has “[shown him] that anyone has [the] chance and the capability to reach their dreams.” Inspired by meteorology teacher, Tim Nendick ‘08, Puga aspires to be a meteorologist himself someday.

The Hurtado Scholars program continues to help students who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to go to Rockhurst, have the opportunity to do so.

Vanessa Wiegman, Assistant Director of Hurtado Scholars, added that “[these students] have potential just like everyone else and…[that when] we learn from different cultures, from different people, from different areas of the city…it enriches our Rockhurst community.”