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By Shirley Jinkins, Star-Telegram, May 5, 2013

Gas-drilling fund yields scholarships for Arlington students

Five graduating seniors who live in southeast Arlington have been the first to collect scholarship money that was negotiated by their neighborhood in gas-drilling contracts in 2008.

Winners Derek Rodriquez, Sydney Ann Szmuc and Chandra Hamilton of Arlington High School, and Mykayla Coates and Relius Johnson of Bowie High School all live in the 76014 zip code.

The $500 scholarships were awarded at a reception last week at Mayfield Road Baptist Church, a community partner that hosted planning sessions five years ago between the South East Arlington Property Owners and Paloma Resources.

The drilling company made a $100,000 contribution to get the fund started. At the time, the property owners’ deal with Paloma was record-breaking, with a signing bonus of $22,000 per acre and a 25 percent flat royalty.

“We were able to get community development money from the negotiations, and we decided to start a scholarship fund,” said Jim Colley, executive director of the group and one of 10 community members during the negotiations.

Arlington, Sam Houston and Bowie high schools fall within the ZIP code, making their students eligible for the scholarships. Requirements included a 3.0 grade-point average, active participation in extracurricular activities and an essay on educational goals and patriotism.

“We got some very good quality students,” said Colley, who called the students “inspiring.”

Rodriquez said he plans to attend Texas State University in San Marcos and become a pediatric oncologist. Szmuc’s goal is to study philanthropic business administration at Paul Quinn College in Dallas. Hamilton plans to study nursing at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

Coates wants to major in camp/sports ministry at Dallas Baptist University, and Johnson plans a triple major in kinesiology, math and track at Texas A&M-Commerce.

The scholarship fund also partnered with DFW Camper Corral to donate an equipment trailer to the Arlington school district’s new fire academy career program in conjunction with the Arlington Fire Department and Tarrant County College. FastSigns did the graphics on the trailer.

Fire training students Luke Burgdorf and Austin Dellasega were on hand for the trailer donation last week. The two will graduate from the program in June.

“We want to grow the fund with interest and with donations,” Colley said.

Contributions to the scholarship fund can be made directly to the church and are tax deductible. Donations should be designated to the scholarship fund.