By: Emily Reaux
As part of our core mission, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ provides educational scholarships to Texas youth. It’s why we do what we do. It’s a special privilege to help students across the state achieve their dreams of continuing their education after high school. One of our favorite scholarship stories comes from a mother of three who reached out to share the unique role the Rodeo has played in her life and the lives of her three children.
In the spring of 1983, going to college was not a sure thing for Sharon Dohmann Swize. A few things were still up in the air — the biggest: how to pay for it. She had applied for the 4-H Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship her senior year, but no one in her county had ever received it before.
“It was so different back then … we went to Texas A&M for our interviews and the county agent had already told my mom that if I was in a group interview, I probably was not going to get a scholarship and not to be disappointed,” she said.
Swize was in a group interview that day. It was hours later when they found out who was getting a scholarship and who was not. “We didn’t know until that night. (All of the students) sat down in Rudder Auditorium and if they called your name, you got it.”
Thankfully, Swize was one of the names called that night.
“Sitting there waiting in anticipation, just praying your name would be called. It was scary, but boy it was exciting when they called your name and you got to walk across the stage and shake their hands!” she said.
“In that moment, I knew my future was set and I just knew that I was going to get to go to college now.”
It was a relief for her parents too, she said. “I came home and said, ‘I’m going to A&M!’”
With the scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Swize received her masters from Texas A&M University, and for the last 20 years, she has worked as a registered pediatric dietician with children who have special needs.
While at A&M, she met her future husband, Robert, an animal science major.
Flash forward two decades and three children later, the Swize’s hoped for another Rodeo scholarship. This time for their first born, their daughter Alex.
In 2011, Alex was named as a recipient of the Go Texan Scholarship and went on to A&M like her parents. She is now a licensed physical therapist.
Three years later, their middle child, Carolyn, was also named as a recipient of a Rodeo scholarship, the Texas 4-H Opportunity Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship. After getting her bachelor’s degree at A&M, she’s currently getting her master’s degree in Oceanography at LSU.
And just weeks ago, the Swize family earned a fourth Rodeo scholarship.
Their son Justin, who is bound for A&M, received the email they had been waiting for. He was chosen as a recipient of the 2020 Goliad County Area Go Texan Scholarship.
Swize says she’s thrilled for Justin and relieved to have received yet another scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
And even with COVID-19, Justin is going to College Station. “I told him we’re shipping you off. I don’t care if your classes are online, you’re going!” she laughed. “I don’t want him to be stuck at home. I want him to experience college on campus even if it’s all online.”
All three of their kids showed goats at the Houston Livestock Show. Carolyn enjoyed the Ag Mechanics Show and Justin participated in the Food Challenge. And even their eldest, Alex still comes back to Houston each year for the Show.
“Even though she lives in Abilene, she’s got to go. She loves the Rodeo.”
Both Alex and Carolyn also interned at the Rodeo while in school. Swize said Justin will as well.
“I’ve already told my son, you just better make plans! Because that’s what you’re going to be doing during your Spring Break. You’re going to go and get back to Houston.”
She says Justin will pursue a degree in aerospace engineering at A&M.
It took a lot of hard work to get to where they are, but it’s all worth it for the Swize family. And for icing on the cake? The scholarships they have received have allowed Swize and her family to graduate with no student loans.
She said she and Robert wanted to share their story because they felt it was unique and to say thank you to the Rodeo. “How many families can say they have four Houston scholarship winners?” asked Robert.
“The Houston Livestock Show has blessed my family.” Swize wrote to us in an email. “I just need to say thank you as an alumna and as a mother. Thank you for your generosity over the years.”