By Brittany Rogers

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ proudly awards more than $14 million in scholarships annually. Processing the 4,300 student applications is no small feat, and the Scholarship Administration Committee does that and more every year.

Founded as a task force in 2011 and then officially as a committee in 2014, the committee was formed to assist in activities necessary to facilitate the Rodeo’s scholarship application process. Until 2019, their duties were predominantly verifying individual applications and staffing judging days. Much of the process goes through an online portal, reducing paperwork and allowing the committee members to focus more on assisting scholarship judging and planning alums and scholar events. Approximately 800 of the 4,300 students who apply ultimately are awarded a scholarship.

Former Scholarship Administration Committee Chairman Ruthie Hebert led the Committee from 2020 through 2023   and is one of the founding members from its inception 12 years ago. The committee consists of 55 members, seven of whom are former Rodeo scholarship recipients. Two vice chairmen led alongside Hebert with three additional captains. All officers share responsibility for the major events and accept ad hoc projects as needed. Most recently, the committee has taken on the verification process for the Junior Show Exhibitor applications. Their new role ensures the exhibitors are correctly registered to bring their animals and projects to the Show. “We are so happy to find another avenue helping Texas youth that furthers their educational and ag goals,” Hebert said. “It is very similar to the verification process we are accustomed to doing for scholarship applications.”

Their largest event of the year is the annual scholarship banquet, which has transformed from a formal meal into a casual indoor picnic that includes friends and family members. The change allows more mingling with donors, recipients and Rodeo volunteers. In 2021, COVID-19 restrictions forced the traditional event to become a drive-thru celebration. “It brought a change that was very welcomed,” Hebert said. “It made us realize recipients were excited to share this big day with their extended families. Going forward, we’d like to continue hosting a more casual event, allowing them to celebrate with their guests in a relaxed, fun atmosphere.” In 2022, the committee hosted 377 scholars and their guests for their first indoor picnic banquet, and in 2023, the event was successful again as 353 scholars and their guests attended the celebration.

Without a doubt, interacting with scholarship recipients is by far the most rewarding part of serving on the committee. Volunteers regularly write notes of encouragement to the students and look forward to seeing them at events every year. In fact, when they could not host the banquet in 2020, they wrote congratulatory notes to more than 800 recipients. “Meeting the students and their families at in-person events is what we enjoy most,” Hebert said. “They are so thankful and excited for the opportunities the Rodeo has awarded them. Watching them graduate and return as alumni is incredibly rewarding.”