LAUP founder Lupita Reyes honored with scholarship

The legacy of Latin American United for Progress founder Lupita Reyes is being honored with a new scholarship, and the Tri-Cities Puentes Initiative is asking for the support of the community in raising $25,000 for the endowment.

“As Lupita has served others, it is our turn to celebrate her by establishing an endowed scholarship that will for years encourage students to pursue their education,” says Reyna Masko, co-chair of Tri-Cities Puentes Initiative. “It is the least we can do to honor her decades-long commitment to the service of others.”

The Puentes Initiative established the Lupita Reyes Scholarship Fund at the Grand
Haven Area Community Foundation. Community leaders Alfredo Gonzales, Juanita
Bocanegra and Alma Valenzuela helped set up the endowed scholarship.

Starting as $1,000 award

The Lupita Reyes Scholarship will initially be set at $1,000 annually, with the intention of increasing the amount as the fund grows. It will be awarded each year to a graduating high school student in Ottawa County with a Latin American
background who shows the potential to have a positive impact on the community.

So far, more than $9,500 has been raised, but the goal needs to be reached by Nov. 1 to create an endowment, says Masko. Donations can be made here.

Latin American United for Progress, a Holland-based organization that Reyes helped found, based in Holland, is also pledging funds. It will ask for donations from attendees at its sold-out Seventh Annual Gala on Oct. 20 at the Holland Civic Center.

Reyes’ impact on the Lakeshore community is far reaching, say organizers.

“Lupita’s life story is forever inspiring,” says Yadah Ramirez, Puentes Initiative volunteer and director of community impact at the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland Area. “I remember first hearing it as a little girl when my father would volunteer with Lupita and her husband, Tino, hearing it again when I was a student in LAUP, and hearing it even now as an adult is a reminder for the 'why' behind what we do to push forward positive change in our community.”

A lifetime of firsts

The establishment of an endowed scholarship is a first for Lupita Reyes and the Latino community. However, being the first is not unusual for her.

● When Latino families were denied housing ownership or rental, she worked with
others to pass the first Fair Housing Ordinance in the City of Holland.

● When families needed temporary housing, food and health care, she worked to
establish Community Action House, a nonprofit organization still serving those in
need in Holland.

● When she could not hear Mexican music on area radio stations, she launched
“Alegria Latina” on Holland’s WHTC. It is now the oldest Latino-run
program in Michigan, with a growing audience in the Netherlands, Mexico and
India. She retired from the role in 2021 after 57 years.

● To advocate for the Latino community, she helped establish Latin American
United for Progress, one of the oldest Latino organizations in Michigan.

● She saw another need when Latino children were told they could not speak
Spanish in school. This prompted Lupita to join with others to win passage of bilingual education legislation in Michigan, helping to ensure the education of Latino children.

“The Lupita Reyes Endowment Scholarship is a tribute to an extraordinary woman,
Lupita Reyes, who defied the odds and dedicated her life to making a difference,”
Masko said.

Reyes was recognized at last month’s Grand Haven Hispanic Heritage Fiesta in Grand Haven.

“It’s an honor to have this scholarship that I did not get when I graduated from high
school,” Reyes told the crowd at Waterfront Stadium.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.