Meet the Forty Acres Scholars Program Class of 2022

The University of Texas at Austin’s premier full-ride, merit-based scholarship continues to grow more and more competitive, as this year nearly 6,500 students applied for the Forty Acres Scholars Program—almost 2,000 more than last year. On March 1-3, 52 impressive finalists visited the UT campus for a full weekend of in-person interviews and a glimpse at what life on the Forty Acres could look like.

Administered by the Texas Exes, the Forty Acres Scholars Program offers a rich college experience that provides academic, leadership, and cultural opportunities within a close-knit cohort of fellow scholars. Funding provides for tuition, a living stipend, a book stipend, and an enrichment stipend for approved academic, leadership, professional, and service activities. Throughout the four years, scholars benefit from a variety of programming opportunities and alumni connections.

Today, we are pleased to announce the 21 exceptional scholars of the Forty Acres Scholars Program Class of 2022. “We are so excited to welcome the newest cohort of Forty Acres Scholars. Throughout the selection process, the words passionate, driven, motivated, and vision were used to describe these students,” says Kristy Parks, director of scholarships. “They will join our diverse scholar community, currently comprised of 70 scholars on campus and 36 alumni, who embody the university’s core values and are committed to UT’s mission of transforming lives for the benefit of society”

Meet the Class of 2022:

Hannah Bernier from Scottsdale, Arizona, is the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending the International Baccalaureate Program at Desert Mountain High School, Bernier was a human resources volunteer for Taliesin West, and a writer for Spoon University, an online food publication. In 2017, she received the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Silver Medal for poetry. A competitive mountain biker, Bernier recently competed in a 24-hour mountain bike event, “24 Hours in the Old Pueblo,” and placed second in the four-person women open category. She plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering honors and a BDP certificate in Environment and Sustainability. She is the daughter of Paula and Bob Bernier.

 

Phillip Boltan from Flower Mound, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by the Cockrell School of Engineering, and the Chevron Enrichment Award. While attending Flower Mound High School, in addition to being a taekwondo black belt, Boltan was leader of the VEX Robotics Club, co-founded the chess club, and was a four-year member of the National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta. Boltan was a semifinalist in Chemistry at the Broadcom MASTERS Science Fair, and a two-time Technology Student Association National Qualifier. At UT, he plans to pursue majors in chemical engineering and business with a certificate in computational science and engineering. He is the son of Zinaida and Vlad Boltan.

 

Brian Chavez from Port Isabel, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by Beverly and Will O’Hara. While attending Port Isabel High School, Chavez founded several organizations and worked on implementing public health initiatives like purified water bottle filling stations, a concept inspired by a visit he took to UT. He was also student body president, National Honor Society president, and captain of the football team. Chavez plans to pursue a degree in biochemistry as a Health Science Scholar. He is the son of Mary and Victor Chavez.

 

 

Marshall Comeaux from Dallas, Texas, is the recipient of the Elizabeth Shatto Massey and John H. Massey Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Cistercian Preparatory School, Comeaux was not only co-founder of the school’s first robotics team, but started a community service program that took student volunteers to a local community center to teach underprivileged children LEGO robotics. He was named a National AP Scholar, National Merit Finalist, and is an Eagle Scout. He plans to major in business honors and Plan II honors. He is the son of Gabrielle and Paul Comeaux.

 

 

Abby Criswell from Austin, Texas, is the recipient of the Bransford Trust Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Westlake High School, Criswell was captain of the ultimate frisbee team and coached on her local swim team. Criswell, who is passionate about art history and Latin, was also president of Westlake’s Latin Club. She completed an internship with the NASA STEM Enhancement in Earth Science Program and was named a National Merit Finalist, National AP Scholar, and “Student of the Year” in four of her classes. She plans to major in computer science as a Turing Scholar and pursue pre-med courses and research as a Dean’s Scholar. She is the daughter of Liesl and Glenn Criswell.

 

 

Ashish Davé from Pearland, Texas, is the recipient of the Barbara and Alan Dreeben Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Dawson High School, Davé was president of the National Honor Society, after running on a platform to reform and expand current service projects. He was president of the Interact Club, which played a large role in local Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and helped found Dawson High School’s Council for Harvey Disaster Relief. Davé was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and is an Eagle Scout from BSA Troop 404. He plans to pursue majors in business honors, finance, and Plan II honors. He is the son of Anuradha and Samir Davé.

 

 

Soren Ettinger DeCou from Missouri City, Texas, is the recipient of the Stuart W. Stedman Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Ridge Point High School, DeCou interned at the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse, where she helped execute projects to combat opioid use in Houston-area high schools, and was a student delegate to China through the Fort Bend ISD Global Partnership Initiative. She was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and speaks Mandarin, which she plans to continue studying at UT while pursuing majors in biomedical engineering honors and Plan II honors. She is the daughter of Rivka and Nicholas Ettinger.

 

 

Anne La Grange from Palmhurst, Texas, is the recipient of the Madison Charitable Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Pioneer High School, La Grange was president of Business Professionals of America and founded the Love All Racquet Donation Program, a service organization that connects low-income youth with athletic equipment. La Grange is an avid photographer. She was named a National Hispanic Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, and awarded the Economics for Leaders Excellence Award. She plans to pursue majors in business honors and finance, with a Spanish minor. She is the daughter of Angelica and Michael La Grange.

 

 

Kerry Mackenzie from Fort Worth, Texas, is the recipient of the Waltrip/Texas Exes Fort Worth Chapter Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Trinity Valley High School, Mackenzie was president of the Junior World Affairs Council and Trojan Tutors, where she tutored third graders at a local charter school for four years. She was named a National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar with Distinction. Mackenzie gave a TED talk on the importance of incorporating the study of art and humanities into educational curriculums, which is part of what inspired her to major in Plan II honors and international relations and global studies at UT. She is the daughter of Kelly and Terry Mackenzie.

 

 

Alejandro Martinez from Alton, Texas, is the recipient of the Cain, Denius, McGill Family Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Mission High School, Martinez was captain of the FTC Robotics Team and High School Rocketry Team, where he competed in the Team America Rocketry Challenge. He was named an AP Scholar with Distinction, a U.S. Presidential Scholar Nominee, and salutatorian of his class. Martinez is the first in his family to attend college, but has been a longtime Longhorn football fan thanks to his father. Martinez conducted research in mathematical biology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley while in high school and plans to pursue a major in aerospace engineering honors at UT. He is the son of Hilario and Rocio Martinez.

 

 

Lucious McDaniel IV from Frisco, Texas, is the recipient of the George Kozmetsky Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Dr. Justin Wakeland High School, McDaniel was president of Texas DECA and a varsity golfer. He has won awards for his public speaking skills, and is chair of the State Board of Education at Texas Boys State. An aspiring social entrepreneur, McDaniel plans to pursue majors in business honors and finance, along with a real estate certificate. He is the son of Vykie and Lucious McDaniel III.

 

 

Michael Neiswander from San Antonio, Texas, is the recipient of the Lenora and Walter F. Brown San Antonio Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Northside Health Careers High School, he played varsity tennis and was a Nationally Distinguished GUILD Piano Competitor and two-time National Latin Exam Gold Medalist. This past summer, Neiswander worked with an NGO in Zambia, World Bicycle Relief, to deliver bicycles to families in need. He plans to major in business honors and finance. He is the son of Elizabeth and Mark Neiswander.

 

 

Melissa Porras Paniagua from Spring, Texas, is the recipient of the Sylvie and Gary Crum Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Klein Oak High School, Paniagua was a two-time marching band drum major, president of the French Club, and member of the National, Music, and French Honor Societies. A DECA ICDC competitor, she is the reigning first place winner in the Experienced category for the Texas French Symposium. Paniagua is an avid traveler, and loves to cook and oil paint. She plans to pursue majors in business honors and marketing. She is the daughter of Estrella Paniagua and Arturo Porras.

 

 

Elizabeth Sebastian from Spanish Fort, Alabama, is the recipient of the Tom and Sally Dunning Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Daphne High School, Sebastian was on the executive council for Girls Service Club. A flute player, Sebastian was section leader in the Daphne High School Band and attended Alabama Girls State and Alabama Allstate for three years. As a military child, Sebastian attended nine different schools around the country. She plans to pursue a degree in social work and study Spanish at UT. She is the daughter of Annette and James Sebastian.

 

 

Emily Slaughter from Fort Worth, Texas, is the recipient of the Jeanne L. and Michael L. Klein Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Robert L. Paschal High School, Slaughter was sergeant at arms of the National Honor Society, a council member at Kimbell Art Museum for Children’s and Teen Programming and Education, and a mentor in the “Academy 4” program, where she worked as a mentor to underprivileged fourth graders to promote literacy and leadership. She was named an AP Scholar with Honors and FWISD Superintendent Scholar. Slaughter plans to pursue a degree in nursing. She is the daughter of Wynn and James Slaughter.

 

 

Jillian Smith from Frisco, Texas, is the recipient of the Friends of Darrell K Royal Forty Acres Scholarship and the Marilyn Marshall White Enrichment Award. While attending Frisco High School, Smith was president of Junior Frisco Women’s League, captain of the Speech and Debate Team, was a violinist for the school’s orchestra, and was named an AP Scholar with Distinction. She also worked under a city councilwoman to conduct public policy research surrounding public education finance reform. Smith plans to pursue a degree in government though the liberal arts honors program with a double major in philosophy or certificate in public policy. She is the daughter of Melissa and Kevin Smith.

 

 

Michael Smith from Spring, Texas, is the recipient of the AIM Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Klein Oak High School, Smith co-founded and lead a mariachi band, which he brought to the State UIL competition. He was also vice president of the orchestra and served as the orchestra representative in Klein Oak High School’s Tri-M Music Honor Society. He is a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and International Thespian Society. Smith plans to pursue a degree in business honors, with a double major in finance and minor in entrepreneurship. He is the son of Emma Barria-Smith and Alan Smith.

 

 

Robert Cole Urrea from El Paso, Texas, is the recipient of the Karen and Charles Matthews, Jr. Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Cathedral High School, Urrea was a three-year varsity basketball captain and the first freshman to play under hall of fame coach Tony Harper. Urrea also co-founded the Irish Kilt Brigade and brought back the school newspaper. He was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, two-time TAPPS Academic All-State, and a top attorney at the Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session. Urrea plans to pursue majors in business honors and finance. He is the son of Barbara and Luis Urrea.

 

 

Holland Wiles from Dallas, Texas, is the recipient of the Texas Exes Dallas Chapter Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Highland Park High School, Wiles was a cross country captain, senior class representative on student council, and a member of the National Honor Society. She also founded and served as president of the Dwell with Dignity Club, where she was able to combine her passion with service with her love of interior design by hosting a fundraiser to sponsor a family’s new home interior. Wiles plans to pursue a degree in interior design. She is the daughter of Courtney and Worthey Wiles.

 

 

Austin Witt from Mineola, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Mineola High School, Witt was class president, yearbook editor in chief, a guest speaker at the Peace of Mind Tyler Mental Health Conference, and worked several summers with the COR Leadership Team at Sky Ranch Summer Camps. He has won the TSHA Willie Lee Gay award for African American history research and multiple Texas high school online newspaper competitions. Witt plans to pursue a degree in psychology through the liberal arts honors program. He is the son of Kim and Chris Witt.

 

 

Rachel Wood from Austin, Texas, is a recipient of the Stamps Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Hyde Park High School, Wood founded the nonprofit “Austin Serving Abaco” to serve Haitian immigrants in Abaco, was a four-year varsity cheerleader, and served five years as a special needs cheer coach. She has been named one of KVUE Austin’s “Five Who Care,” awarded the Wendy’s Heisman award, and was a four-year National Cheerleading Association All American. At UT, she’s looking forward to cheering on the Longhorns as part of the UT Co-ed Cheer Squad, while pursuing a degree in education and a bilingual teaching certification in Spanish. She is the daughter of Dena and Brian Wood.

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