As part of the State Fair’s mission to promote agriculture, education, and community involvement, the Big Tex Scholarship Program offers new college scholarships for three types of Lone Star students: Juanita Craft for local DISD students, Youth Livestock for students who participated in the Fair’s livestock shows, and Seasonal Employee scholarships. Established in 1992, the program has awarded a total of more than $16.1 million to more than 3,000 students across the state. This North Texas Giving Day, all proceeds collected go toward funding the Big Tex Scholarship Program and investing in tomorrow’s leaders.
From the Piney Woods of East Texas to the heart of downtown Dallas, Big Tex Scholars come from all over the Lone Star State. One of this year’s recipients was Brady Wilson, a former youth livestock exhibitor who earned both the Youth Livestock Scholarship and the Benny Clark Memorial Scholarship.
Having grown up on his family’s poultry production farm in Garrison, Texas, Brady is no stranger to livestock. When he was in the fifth grade, he won Grand Champion Market Broiler at the State Fair’s Youth Livestock Show. One of his fondest memories of the experience is the moment he won, when his father—despite being in a medical boot—hopped over a fence to run and give Brady a hug.
Since then, he’s been busy participating in organizations like FFA and 4-H. From 2021 to 2022, he served as president of the Area IX FFA, which encompasses a sizable chunk of east Texas. According to Brady, one of the best parts of his experience in FFA was connecting with newer members at events and making them feel welcome. He also served as an officer in District 9 4-H, which includes chapters in 18 counties in Texas, including Harris County. Outside of FFA and 4-H, Brady has worked tirelessly to serve people in his community and beyond. Earlier this year, for example, he and several other FFA members drove a 20-foot cattle trailer full of much-needed supplies to a community in Tennessee impacted by devastating tornadoes.
Now, Brady is attending West Texas A&M University, where he is majoring in communications with a minor in agricultural education. His chosen field of study is partially inspired by his family. His parents are agriculture education teachers in New Waverly ISD, and he has an uncle who taught in Lufkin ISD for 39 years! However, he remains undecided when it comes to his future career, deciding between being a teacher, an agriculture lobbyist, or a media broadcaster on RFD-TV (“Rural America’s Most Important Network”). Regardless of the path he chooses, Brady wants to advocate for every person who has a hand in the agriculture industry.
Brady’s advice to other students hoping to earn a scholarship? Connect with people and ask questions! Scholarship hopefuls should strive to step out of their comfort zone to learn something new. When it comes to the livestock competitions at the Fair, Brady advised exhibitors to see it as an opportunity to improve their skills: “Competition’s fun, but it’s what you come away with that matters.”
Closer to Fair Park in Dallas, scholarship recipient Laura Ibañez is a shining example of a Big Tex Scholar reaching for the stars. Having earned the Pete Schenkel Scholarship (now the Juanita Craft Scholarship), Laura also earned the Peggy Sloan Memorial Scholarship in 2021. Now, she is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), where she has chosen a challenging field of study: architectural engineering.
Laura learned the value of hard work from a young age. She credits this to her father: a natural-born leader, hard worker, and one of Laura’s biggest role models. Having worked his way through technical school, Laura’s father now makes his living in the construction business—and he seems to have sparked a similar interest in Laura. During her high school years, she developed an affinity for creating things, delving into mediums like drawing, 3D sculpting, and painting. Combined with her love of math, this led her to choose engineering as her career path of choice.
While browsing UTA’s course catalog, Laura discovered architectural engineering: the perfect combination of math, science, and design that spoke to her love of art and STEM. Today, Laura is entering her second year at UTA, and she has plans to add a minor in math. Despite her challenging coursework and membership in UTA’s Honors College, Laura has maintained a 4.0 GPA, which she attributes to her own hard work and a lot of trial and error. Outside of school, she volunteers frequently at places like the Kleberg Rylie Recreation Center, where she participates in community events and toy drives.
After undergrad, she hopes to earn a Master of Architecture degree and become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). In discussing her plans, Laura also expressed an interest in protecting the environment. She plans to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to gain the knowledge and skills needed to create more sustainable buildings. Guided by her mentor, who is a project manager at renowned Dallas firm ARCO/Murray, Laura also wants to one day work for an engineering firm.
Laura’s advice to other students hoping to earn a scholarship? Never be afraid to reach out to their teachers and advisors for help! In Laura’s own words, “They should know they’re not alone.”
For more information about the Big Tex Scholarship Program, visit BigTex.com/scholarship. To learn about how North Texas Giving Day helps Texans across the state, visit North Texas Giving Day’s website.