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A man in a suit is sitting and smiling off camera. To the right is the back of a young man’s head. At the top left corner, a yellow flag says in black font: COVID-19 update.
Fidel Vargas
Photo: Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Financial Health
June 9, 2020

‘It gives us real comfort and insurance’

With a Paycheck Protection Program loan from Wells Fargo, the nonprofit Hispanic Scholarship Fund can cover two months of payroll for its 51 employees.

Nota del editor: También está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.

On March 7, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund hosted more than 750 students and parents at the University of Texas at Dallas for one of the 177 in-person programs and events it provides each year. Less than 10 days later, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the organization’s staff members began working remotely to support the thousands of students, parents, and alumni they serve, and the organization canceled all travel and in-person events through the end of May. While the organization has since canceled all in-person programs and events through the end of the year due to the pandemic, the staff has pivoted quickly and are coming up with new ways to deliver their services virtually.

“There’s no doubt this has been incredibly disruptive and certainly unprecedented, and like any company or organization, we’re doing our best to adapt to everything happening all at once,” said Fidel Vargas, president and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. “We have a health crisis and scare and want to make sure we’re protecting our employees and families. We’re worried about the students and parents and alumni we serve.”

To continue providing students and their parents with scholarships and support services, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund applied and was approved for a Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan from Wells Fargo.

A man and five students stand in a line as they hold plates and smile at the camera. They are outside, and a golf cart is behind them.
The back of a man in a suit is shown as he speaks to a group of students.
A man in a suit holds a phone to his forehead and smiles as he stands in front of a group of students who look at him and smile.
A man in a suit sits in a chair and smiles at a young man whose back of the head is shown. Another young man sits nearby and smiles at the man in a suit. Behind them, people sit in several rows of chairs.
Fidel Vargas, center, and students at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute, a five-day, overnight, college empowerment program for high-achieving Latino high school juniors held at two top universities across the U.S.
Photo: Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Vargas speaks to students at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute, one of the 177 in-person programs and events the nonprofit provides each year.
Photo: Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Vargas plays a game with students at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute.
Photo: Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Vargas talks with students at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute, where high school juniors participate in college and career workshops, live on a college campus, and interact with college students and professionals who serve as their mentors.
Photo: Hispanic Scholarship Fund

“The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is an important organization, especially for the students, alumni, and their parents they serve,” said Jimmie Paschall, head of Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion at Wells Fargo. “Even as they navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19, we know the staff continues to stay in touch with students, alumni, and their parents and support them well. We are proud to be able to offer support during this difficult time.”

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s loan will cover two months of payroll for the organization’s 51 employees and help with rent and utilities.

“I’m glad that Congress insisted on including nonprofits and small businesses,” Vargas said. “We’re not the largest nonprofit in the world, but we know what we do is important. The program itself and the way we’re able to secure funding through Wells Fargo is going to make a huge difference for HSF.”

‘We knew we needed as many resources as we could have’

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is the nation’s largest nonprofit supporting Hispanic American higher education and has provided $619 million in scholarships to date. Since Vargas stepped into his role in 2013, the organization has also provided support services, including mentorship, career services, leadership development, knowledge building, and wellness.

Wells Fargo has donated $2.75 million a year to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund since 2013. Most of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s events are funded in advance by sponsors, and with all of the organization’s events canceled, there have been concerns about how sponsors and supporters would respond.

“I don’t think anyone can tell you today what’s going to happen.” — Fidel Vargas, president and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

“It’s not clear how that’s going to shake out,” Vargas said. “In the short term, we’ve been grateful for our partners reaching out and being flexible with funds to support the scholars and parents we serve. Our biggest supporter, Wells Fargo, has been supportive, flexible, and has actually reached out to make sure we have the resources we need to move forward. It didn’t take a week, once we went virtual, for Wells Fargo to say, ‘Your funding is unrestricted.’ As far as I’m concerned, Wells Fargo is setting an example for how other companies should be.”

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed and the Paycheck Protection Program was enacted, Wells Fargo was able to provide information about the program to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Knowing what the loan would mean to them, the staff decided to apply with Wells Fargo’s small business team, Vargas said.

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“I don’t think anyone can tell you today what’s going to happen,” Vargas said. “We knew we needed as many resources as we could have. There has been a lot of confusion in the marketplace and the media about the program. What we were able to do was lean on the fact that Wells Fargo has been supportive.”

He said the loan application was pretty straightforward, adding that the loan was approved and the loan agreement was signed within a matter of days after the program went live. “That money is going to allow us stability for the next two months where we can evaluate how things are going to shake out in terms of the organization, and that’s really important,” Vargas said. “Because this loan is there to ensure the organization covers payroll, it gives us real comfort and insurance.”

As the organization continues to move forward, Vargas said the staff is developing plans as they go along, but the one constant is that they continue to provide their scholars and their families with scholarships and support services.

These services are needed even more now during uncertain times, Vargas said. “We are sharing with students to make sure that in this time of uncertainty their aspirations don’t take a backseat.”

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