Walton Scholarships Spread Education Through South America

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

Emilia Faraj of Honduras and Gary Torres of El Salvador are recipients of the Walton International Scholarship and attend Harding University in Searcy. Other Walton Scholars attend John Brown University at Siloam Springs and University of the Ozarks in Clarksville.

For Emilia Faraj, a Honduran senior electrical engineering student at Harding University, the Walton International Scholarship Program was “the best thing ever.”

It’s an Arkansas-specific program available to South American students. Participants get a full ride, paid for entirely by the program, to either Harding in Searcy, John Brown University in Siloam Springs or the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. Sam Walton himself started it 26 years ago.

“Mr. Walton wanted this to help their countries,” said Nicky Boyd, director of the program at Harding.

Specifically, Walton wanted to give the students an alternative to a communist education. According to the program website, Walton had observed the smartest South American students getting their degrees from Moscow or Cuba, a far cry from Walton’s values of democracy and free enterprise.

Walton picked the three small faith-based universities so the students would receive more attention from professors and the student body.

But he didn’t want to create a “brain drain,” Boyd said.

“The whole point of it is, they must return home,” he said. “They can’t stay in the U.S.”

Each year, a school may accept up to 60 Walton Scholars from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Among the three universities, more than 1,000 students have received degrees through the Walton program.

Getting the scholarship is no small achievement. It’s a full ride, plus more:

“It pays them a monthly living allowance,” Boyd said. “It provides insurance; it provides airfare to and from their home country each year. It’s a pretty big deal.”

At Harding, it’s a deal worth $28,000 per year, and at any of the schools the whole thing is usually valued at more than $100,000.

To choose the 60 students, the universities look at several factors, foremost being grades and character.



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