Katarina Chapa, a junior biomedical science major at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has learned that hard work and taking chances can lead to unexpected success. Chapa, who grew up in Weslaco, Texas, says her time at the Island University has expanded her potential in unlimited ways. Along with being accepted into Sigma Alpha Pi, the local chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, she also spearheaded a fundraising campaign to add Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to the “Las Botas de Mercedes” boot sculpture collection in Mercedes, Texas. The new boot was unveiled to the public in a formal ceremony on Oct. 21, 2016.
“It feels great to leave a mark on Mercedes, where my high school alma mater is located,” said Chapa. “I’m incredibly happy that A&M-Corpus Christi is finally represented and I hope the boot will get more people in the Rio Grande Valley interested in the Island University.”
“Las Botas de Mercedes” is a public art initiative aimed at promoting higher education in Mercedes. Each boot is decorated with the colors and logo of each college or university. The Island University boot, which is the 31st sculpture in the series, is located at 434 S. Ohio Ave., directly in front of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Library in Mercedes.
In order to raise the $2,400 for the boot to be designed, manufactured and installed, Chapa first reached out to the advisors of Sigma Alpha Pi, Cara Solovey and Lily Gonzalez, who then assisted Chapa with getting in touch with University officials who could help.
Chapa then set up a GoFundMe account which raised $950 in donations. Dr. Trent Hill, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at A&M-Corpus Christi, matched the donated money, and together with $500 in donations from Mercedes officials, the $2,400 needed for the boot was raised.
“I was excited when we reached the funding goal for the boot in just a few short months,” said Chapa. “I thought it would be a year-long journey, but it all happened so quickly, from the funding to the construction to the installation. It’s all so incredible.”
“Las Botas de Mercedes” signify a special tradition in Mercedes in which high school graduates take a photo standing near the boot that represents their future college.
“It was a little disappointing that I wasn’t able to take a picture with a boot from my college when I was accepted into TAMU-CC a few years ago,” said Chapa. “Now future Islander students will be able to see this boot and become inspired to check out the university.”
After high school graduation, Chapa had a long list of colleges to choose from. She toured many campuses, but says once she visited the Island University she knew this would be her new home.
“None of the other universities had the same feeling as TAMU-CC,” said Chapa. “They were all either too big or too small. The Island University had everything I wanted. Everyone here was kind and welcoming and as soon as I got here, I knew it was the college for me.”
After graduation, Chapa plans to attend medical school at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
“It is my dream to become a medical doctor,” said Chapa. “UTRGV is an incredibly competitive school but I feel I will be prepared for it with the knowledge I’ve gained from my studies at the Island University.”