Austin Community College’s Boots & Bats Gala Funds and Motivates Students’ Dreams
The event raises funds for students like Sophia Monetti who works, volunteers and studies fashion marketing in Austin
By Vanessa Blankenship
Photographs courtesy of Austin Community College
Sophia Monetti, a fashion marketing student, has always been fascinated by accessories. From South American-inspired woven jewelry to beaded pieces from Africa, Monetti describes her day-to-day style as eclectic because she likes to mix-and-match accessories from a variety of cultures.
If she had more free time, she says, she would spend it creating her own jewelry, but the 19-year-old’s days are already jam-packed: Monetti works 35 hours a week at local clothing store Grace & Lace, volunteers at the Reveal Resource Center, and serves with the worship ministry at her church, all while studying full-time at Austin Community College.
“My real passion is accessories in the fashion industry,” Monetti says. “I like to create them, but I think the bigger picture is that I like to market and sell them.”
With that big picture in mind, Monetti set her sights on college as the first step toward making her dreams of working in fashion marketing a reality. But, as the oldest in a family with five kids, she knew she would be paying for school herself and even with a nearly full-time job, finances would be a challenge.
That’s where ACC’s scholarship initiative came into play. Monetti is one of 31 recipients of the ACC Boots & Bats Scholarship. Last year, the inaugural Boots & Bats Gala raised over $160,000 for scholarship funding. For Monetti and many students like her, a scholarship of $2,500 to cover tuition, fees and textbooks for the 2019-2020 academic year does more than simply pay the bills. It eases not only the financial burden but the emotional one as well. Less stress about paying for college means students have more time and energy to focus on their studies and plan ahead for the future.
On Saturday, November 2, ACC will hold its second annual Boots & Bats Gala to raise funds for its scholarship program. The event held at the college’s Highland Campus will feature live music, a live and silent auction, and a cocktail reception with light hors d’oeuvres prepared by ACC Culinary Arts students. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit austincc.edu/bootsandbats.
Monetti sat down with Tribeza to talk about how the scholarship has impacted her life and her dreams to one day work in the fashion world.
Vanessa Blankenship: What were some of the steps you needed to take to receive the scholarship?
Sophia Monetti: I actually thought it was going to be a lot more complicated because I had been applying for scholarships online for a while through many different organizations. There are essays, lots of questions and the process can be quite time-consuming. Also, I didn’t feel like my backstory was very impressive or anything, so I felt like I was getting overlooked. But then someone from the scholarship or money management board came in to my Effective Learning class and talked to us about the scholarships and grants you could apply for. And so I thought, “Okay, I’ll look into it, I’ll look into ACC.” You can do one application that’s good for all the scholarships for ACC. They want to know about you and what your plans for ACC are, so I filled out the essay and got my recommendation letters and I was good to go.
VB: With multiple scholarships offered, what’s unique about ACC’s Boots & Bats Scholarship?
SM: A lot of scholarships are for specific things, like a particular ethnicity or military families. People often think I’m Hispanic but I’m not, so I’m not qualified for the Hispanic scholarships. And I don’t have a parent in the military so I didn’t qualify for that one either. The Boots & Bats scholarship is very broad, which was good for me, plus I met the required GPA.
VB: ACC is known to be affordable. Does an amount like $2,500 in funding make a real difference?
SM: I’m the oldest of five kids and have a lot of responsibilities, including all my own expenses. So I work part-time, but it’s actually almost full-time at about 35 hours a week. I have to pay for my own college and even though I live at home and ACC is super affordable, it’s still a pretty large chunk of money out of my paycheck every semester, which can be stressful. Having a scholarship to cover that extra amount of money makes me feel like I can just go for it, without as much worry, and that’s been really cool.
VB: Looking beyond paying for tuition and textbooks, how has receiving this scholarship changed the way you look at your college career?
SM: I’ve always been a determined student, and I like to keep on track with my grades. But once you hit college, you realize there’s a lot of times when you might think differently like, “Well, I can make a B in this class and I’ll be fine,” or “You know what? Cs get degrees” and things like that. But once I got that scholarship, I was like “Okay, somebody has invested in me, I need to do my best and I’m going to get As in these classes and work to the best of my abilities.” The scholarship has given me that extra push to be at a higher standard. Even though it’s not completely required (you could get Bs and Cs and still be on the scholarship), it just makes you want to do more. It’s amazing – somebody has donated, they didn’t have to do that! But somebody has specifically donated so that a student, like me, can finish out their college degree without any financial burden, without having to take out any loans, requiring debt or anything like that.
VB: What do you see for yourself in the future?
SM: I’ve been interested in fashion probably since freshman year of high school. For a while, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but it really clicked when I was a junior and started working for Grace & Lace. I’ve worked for them for three years and now I work with the marketing and promotions team. So I’ve been able to see the whole picture of the business, including the launches for next year. It’s just been really cool and I know that this is something I actually want to do and really be a part of. It’s not just this thing that I might get my degree in and maybe I’ll change my mind later. This is literally what I know I want to do.
VB: What advice do you have for students who may be struggling both emotionally and financially to stay in school?
SM: The biggest thing is don’t underestimate yourself and don’t underestimate what other people are going to see in you. Because, for me, I never thought I was super impressive. I don’t think I have some amazing story and my hopes and dreams aren’t to start my own clothing line or anything spectacular like that. But I do know what I want to do, and that matters. So, just don’t underestimate yourself or your own hopes and dreams because somebody else can see you for who you are and wants to help you become what you want to be.
The second annual Boots & Bats Gala on November 2 will highlight some of the past scholarship recipients and is hosted in partnership with renowned Southwest artist Amado Pena’s Art Has Heart Foundation. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit austincc.edu/bootsandbats.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.