Texas Beer Distribution Family Promotes Education Through a Decade of Scholarships
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of South Texas Academic Rising Scholars (STARS), a grassroots non-profit organization founded by Joe LaMantia, Jr. and his family who own and operate L&F Distributors based in McAllen, Texas. But the origin of STARS begins decades before its founding.
In 1974, LaMantia was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe to the Board of the Texas Department of Corrections. He was reappointed in 1983 by Governor Mark White and served as the Vice-Chairman for more than 10 years. During his tenure, LaMantia saw firsthand the problems facing the Texas border region, specifically poverty, crime and high unemployment. He recognized that education was the key to improving these challenges faced by the community.
A champion of educational opportunity, LaMantia established one of the first scholarships for women athletes at the University of Texas Pan American, the Ann LaMantia Outstanding Woman Athlete Scholarship. The scholarship was named in honor of his wife of 30 years, Ann LaMantia, who passed away in 1983. Ann LaMantia served on the Board of Regents at Pan American University and, like LaMantia, was committed to higher education for the students of South Texas.
Under LaMantia’s leadership, L&F Distributors formed a partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) in 1994 and in eight years raised more than $5 million and awarded more than 2,600 scholarships to the students in South Texas. The success of HSF prompted efforts to create an organization that catered to South Texas and the communities which surrounded L&F Distributors.
In 2002, upon joining forces with his family and respected business leaders from the community, LaMantia established the STARS scholarship fund, which awards scholarships to students from South Texas. This initiative was prompted by the conviction that an educated citizen is essential to the growth and future success of South Texas.
The first STARS fundraisers were held in 2003 in McAllen, Laredo and Corpus Christi, Texas. Events featured LeAnn Rimes, Paul Rodriguez and Jay Leno. STARS raised more than $1 million in its first year. These funds allowed STARS to award more than 1,000 scholarships for the 2004/2005 academic year. Since then, STARS has welcomed artists and presenters such as Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Sugarland, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, Karl Rove and most recently Steve Forbes and Lady Antebellum.
Today, STARS partners with hundreds of local and national businesses, organizations, colleges and universities annually. Together the community has helped STARS raise nearly $18 million dollars since its start a decade ago. STARS has helped nearly 9,000 students from South Texas receive higher education through scholarships.
The STARS Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to qualified students of South Texas annually. STARS provides scholarships through a general application process, in which recipients are selected on a competitive basis of academic achievement, personal strengths, leadership and financial need. STARS strives to ensure that deserving individuals are not denied the opportunities for learning and discovery that are available in a university setting.
The cornerstone of the STARS organization lays in its family of dedicated volunteers and devoted sponsors. Unlike most non-profit organizations, STARS commits 100% of every dollar donated by sponsors directly to scholarships for the students of South Texas to attend the college of their choice. All STARS expenses, including overhead and salaries, are generously underwritten by Anheuser-Busch and L&F Distributors.
LaMantia currently serves as the founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Several members of the LaMantia family also serve on the STARS Board of Directors and dedicate their time to ensure the success of the organization.
As 2012 marks a decade of service to the community, it is the founder’s hope that students from the community will continue to receive their higher education and will lead productive and prosperous lives.