San Antonio – A year ago President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and today a St. Mary’s University student is the recipient of a scholarship started with a portion of that prize money. Matthew Castro, a junior biochemistry major from San Antonio, has been named among the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s first class of Obama Scholars – one of only 12 nationwide.

President Obama donated all of the $1.4 million Nobel Prize money to ten charities, and Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) received $125,000. HSF used the money to establish the Obama Scholars program for undergraduate Hispanic students studying in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and who also want to become teachers.

“The teachers that really made a positive impact on me where the ones who really cared about what they did and really made a difference,” said Castro. “My goal is to give back and get the next generation of scientists excited.”

Castro, now age 29, enlisted in the Air Force in 2002 after 9/11 to serve his country. He did three tours in Iraq in the Air Force as a critical care medic.

“It changes who you are as a person. You learn to appreciate who you are where you come from and not take that for granted. It makes you realize how important a quality education is,” Castro said about being an Iraq War Veteran.

After serving six-and-a-half years in the Air Force, Castro got out in January 2009 and enrolled at St. Mary’s in the fall of 2009 on the Post 9-11 GI Bill. As an Obama Scholar, Castro will receive an additional $2,500 from HSF for his junior year and another $2,500 for his senior year.

Castro works part-time as a LVN (licensed vocational nurse) in the ICU at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base. The scholarship will help him cover living expenses so that he can just focus on his biochemistry courses.

Castro, along with the other 11 HSF Obama Scholars, signed a thank you note for President Obama for donating the Nobel Prize money that made the HSF scholarship possible. Castro says it is an honor to be named an Obama Scholar and he now has a sense of duty to do something to make a real difference.

Castro wants to go on to earn his Ph.D. and eventually teach on the undergraduate level. Through his studies at St. Mary’s School of Science, Engineering and Technology and his medical background in the military, Castro also wants to pursue research in cellular and molecular biology. Castro was also recently chosen to participate in the undergraduate research program at UT Health Science Center-San Antonio Center for Biomedical Neuroscience.

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