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Amy Gamboa ProvencioGamboa Family Scholarship

Establishing a Scholarship in a mother's honor

Amy Provencio Gamboa dreamt of becoming a teacher ever since she was a student in elementary school. But marriage and six children postponed Gamboa’s dream until 1981 when, at the age of 54, she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in elementary education with a bilingual education certification from The University of Texas at El Paso. “I’ve always had an interest in education,” said Gamboa, who completed one year at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU) in 1947 before she married Joseph Ernest Gamboa. “After being out of school for so many years, one of my challenges was to be able to compete with younger students. With my strong belief in education, I had no problem.” UTEP alumna Amy Provencio Gamboa graduated from UTEP’s College of Education in 1981 at the age of 54. This spring, her children established the Amy Provencio Gamboa Endowed Scholarship in her honor, which will support UTEP students who are planning to become educators.

Gamboa’s commitment to education inspired her children – Joe Henry Gamboa, Dolores Gamboa, Connie Gamboa, Carlos Gamboa, Robert Gamboa and Teresa Gamboa Childs – to establish the Amy Provencio Gamboa Endowed Scholarship in spring 2014. The scholarship supports UTEP students in the colleges of Education and Health Sciences who are pursuing their dreams to become future educators. The annual scholarship will benefit a student who is either pursuing a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Elementary Education or a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Physical Education Teacher Education.

“When you consider the impact and the multiplier effect that this scholarship will have for generations to come, there are going to be eventually hundreds of students that are going to benefit from this gift,” College of Health Sciences Dean Kathleen Curtis, Ph.D., said during a plaque unveiling ceremony honoring Gamboa April 11 in the Health Sciences and Nursing Building. “It signifies everything that (Amy Provencio Gamboa) believes in and everything that we as a University hold dear in terms of the values of being able to support our students and being able to foster their student success.”

Gamboa’s love of sports piqued her interest in physical education. Her husband, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps who trained as a bombardier during WWII, won her heart through the game of bowling. Because of their shared passion for the sport, he and his family built a bowling alley in Las Cruces.

“Our mother had always been a talented athlete and dreamed of encouraging others to be physically active,” said Connie Gamboa, assistant dean for student affairs in the College of Health Sciences. “She wanted to be a physical educator.” However, marriage and the birth of their first child, Joe Henry Gamboa, compelled the couple to refocus their dreams.

It was not until 1968, after their first three children were in college, that Gamboa became a substitute teacher. She also began taking classes at El Paso Community College and eventually enrolled at UTEP when she was 50 years old. Gamboa and her youngest daughter, Teresa Gamboa Childs, attended UTEP at the same time. “Instead of yelling ‘Mom,’ I would yell ‘Amy’ when I saw her at the Union or across campus because we were co-eds at UTEP,” said Childs, laughing. “She was ‘Amy’ when we were on campus.” Whether Gamboa was substitute teaching or doing homework, her children always came first. Connie Gamboa remembers the family sitting around the living room coffee table, which was covered with her mom’s school books and papers. When she needed a study break, Amy Gamboa would go outside and jump rope 1,000 times to clear her head.

Like many UTEP students, transportation and money for tuition and books were obstacles Gamboa had to overcome, but she was determined to succeed. “One of my beliefs has always been, ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way,’” Gamboa said. “Also, my family was extremely supportive.”

After earning her degree from UTEP, Gamboa taught at Thomas Manor Elementary School in the Ysleta Independent School District for 18 years. She retired at the age of 70 after 10 years of substitute teaching and 18 years as a certified teacher. The proud UTEP alumna hopes the scholarship will help ease some of the challenges for students that she experienced while pursuing her degree. “In reliving the experiences and hardships that my children and I encountered in putting ourselves through college, to have a scholarship in my name gives me so much joy, because I know that it will help some students by making it easier for them to pursue their education,” Gamboa said. “My heartfelt thanks go to my wonderful children.” Connie Gamboa said that it was her parents’ sacrifices that made the success of their children and grandchildren possible. Five of their six children have graduated from college and six of their seven grandchildren have earned college degrees. Their seventh grandchild is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree and their great-grandchild is planning his college career. “Mom and Dad worked to ensure we children had a comfortable life and the opportunity to succeed,” Connie Gamboa said. “They provided the supportive environment that allowed us to do well in whatever we chose to pursue.”

The first scholarship (and perhaps a jump rope) in Gamboa’s name is expected to be awarded in the fall.

By Laura Acosta, UTEP News Service.

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