Lionel Diaz and his sister Eloisa “Locha” Diaz Parker always discussed their dream to help students, primarily from their hometown of Tolleson, Arizona, with the challenges they face obtaining a postsecondary education. That dream became a reality when in 2000, during the last months of her life, Locha provided the resources for her brother to create an educational foundation, The Eloisa Diaz Educational Foundation (EDEF), in which he could honor and continue his sister’s dream of offering scholarships and opportunities for higher education.
“I support the Maricopa Community Colleges because they provide quality education and job training at a cost that is attainable for the average student and are an affordable alternative to the state universities and private colleges,” said Lionel, who retired as Associate Vice Chancellor, Facilities Planning & Development, Business Services, District Support Services Center at Maricopa Community Colleges District (MCCCD) in 2013, after 24 years.
“The impact of the colleges to the community are numerous, for students, employers, and the working citizens who pay state and federal taxes.”
Working together with the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, and with the counselors at Tolleson Union High School, Lionel has seen firsthand how the possibility of an EDEF scholarship works as a motivator for students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. And sometimes, the support continues even beyond the initial scholarship. Lionel recalls fondly, “I was recently contacted by the Vice President, Student Services at Estrella Mountain Community College regarding one of our EDEF scholarship students, who was going to have to drop out of school because she couldn’t afford the next semester.” He continues, “Luckily, we were able to provide her one-half of the funds she needed and worked with the Hispanic Forum to provide the remaining fees, ultimately keeping this student on the path to higher education.”
Lionel adds, “From the beginning two decades ago, our goal has been to support students who may not be the academic or athletic stars, but who are involved in school and community activities and who are mentors. “Our hope is that these same students will grow to become community leaders in the future.”
Over the past 20 years, EDEF has awarded more than 470 scholarships, totaling more than $1 million.