A local couple whose family has been a fixture in the electrical, mechanical and construction management business since 1977 is ensuring medical and dental students get started on a solid foundation.
Paul Porras and his wife, Cecilia, announced a $250,000 gift to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso on Monday, March 7, to create a new scholarship fund for Foster School of Medicine and Hunt School of Dental Medicine students. The announcement was made as the university celebrated National Dentist’s Day. The gift was timely as scholarship offers are underway for medical students and the second cohort of dental students.
The Gary G. Porras Family Scholarship, named in memory of Paul’s late father, includes a $250,000 contribution from the WestStar Matching Scholarship Fund for a total of $500,000. In honor of the Porras’ generosity and the family’s legacy, the mezzanine in Medical Sciences Building II, the newest building on the TTUHSC El Paso campus, has been named the Gary G. and Mireille Porras Mezzanine.
“My parents taught me and my siblings to always give back to our community, and what better way than a scholarship fund in my father’s name,” Paul said. “They worked hard and dedicated their lives to our family and their business. Their perseverance and faith kept them focused on supporting charitable causes and organizations on both sides of the border that empowered families in need. These scholarships will help medical and dental students achieve their dream of becoming the next generation of health care heroes. It is our hope that our scholarship recipients make a difference in our community as they dedicate their lives to serving others. This was the mission of my parents and keeps their legacy alive.”
A Life Built on Determination
Gary, the son of a farmer, was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, in 1949. In search of better opportunities, he moved to El Paso at the age of 17 with just the clothes on his back to live with his sister. Little did he know that he would establish and grow a thriving El Paso-based family business.
Gary’s journey took him from taking any odd jobs he could find to learning the electrical trade from Tom Fuller of Fuller Electric. After eight years with the company, and with the encouragement and support of his lifelong partner, Mireille, Garick Electric was formed in 1977. Gary started the company with only $3,000, but with his strong work ethic and integrity, he grew it from handling small, residential work to international industrial projects. Within three years, Garick Electric was doing large-scale jobs; but more importantly, it was employing El Paso families and giving back to the community. Over the years, Gary served on numerous boards and civic organizations, including the City of El Paso Planning Commission, Civil Service Commission and the Thomason Hospital Board of Managers. However, much of their charitable work and contributions were kept close to the vest despite the immeasurable impact they’ve made in the lives of many.
Today, the Porras values are alive and well in the family business. Gary and Mireille’s son, Paul, is president and CEO, and their son, Richard, is executive vice president of what is now The Garick Group, Inc. Since its creation, the company has been a leader in the electrical and mechanical business and has expanded its services to include construction management and real estate development. The Garick Group, Inc. is one of the largest subcontractors in the Southwest United States.
A Lasting Legacy
For some students, like Valeria Varela, scholarships are life changing. Varela is a fourth-year student at the Foster School of Medicine and a recipient of the Foster Scholar of Excellence Scholarship Award. Varela was born and raised in El Paso and graduated from Burges High School and the University of Texas at El Paso before being accepted at the Foster School of Medicine.
“I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity my scholarship has provided to focus on my education and serve the community of El Paso,” Varela said. “This scholarship means more than a financial contribution to my career, it means that someone had enough confidence in me to contribute to my future. This scholarship has instilled in me the importance of giving back to my community. In the future, I plan to continue volunteering at the student-run free clinics as a medical provider and hopefully be a scholarship donor to future medical students.”
Varela added that the scholarship helped emphasize to her that she has the ability to serve her community during her medical school journey.
“During my first two years, I was on the leadership team of our free clinic for migrant workers and their families,” Varela said. “Following my second year, I joined the leadership team for the Medical Student Run Clinic Mobile Care Unit, which provides free health care screenings to the Agua Dulce community. Additionally, I was able to serve as a class senator during my third and fourth years. I would not have the time to volunteer for these roles without scholarship support.”
Scholarship assistance is what helped Anna Ceniceros, a member of the inaugural class of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, fulfill her dreams and those of her parents, who were migrant farmworkers in Texas.
Ceniceros’ education was made possible thanks to a scholarship through the College Assistance Migrant Program.
“My parents, Maria and Jose Ceniceros, have encouraged me every step of this journey,” Ceniceros said. “I watched them work hard my entire life. They didn’t have the education I’ve had, but they always made sure I knew I could achieve anything, even if I were the first in my family to do it. Both have always pushed me to reach for my goals and not stop. It’s been very heartwarming to see how happy they are when I achieve my goals. One of the most beautiful memories I have is when I told them I was accepted to dental school. I won’t ever forget the emotion and joy they had.”
Once she graduates from the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, Ceniceros sees herself practicing in an underserved area.
“Coming from a rural community has been integral in my desire to become a dentist,” Ceniceros said. I want to be a practitioner who gives back to my community.”
Scholarships are essential to the success of TTUHSC El Paso students because it allows them to have more time to focus on their studies by providing financial flexibility without the need for a job outside of school. Having to work while focusing on rigorous curriculum and clinical rotations can impede a student’s success due to time and energy spent away from schoolwork. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for health care professionals and students, but TTUHSC El Paso’s donors continue to step up during these unprecedented times.
About TTUHSC El Paso
TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. TTUHSC El Paso is designated as a Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation college students.
In 2008, prior to the opening of the Foster School of Medicine, El Paso County’s average number of direct care physicians per 100,000 people was 75% less than the national average. Today, that shortage has been reduced to 60%, more than 10 years after the medical school’s opening.
Currently, there are 705 graduates of the Foster School of Medicine who have become or are on their way to becoming practicing physicians.
TTUHSC El Paso is home to the first dental school to open in Texas in over 50 years. The Hunt School of Dental Medicine was established to close the gap in dental health disparities in West Texas. The school welcomed its first class of 40 students in 2021 and will welcome 60 students per year subsequently.
Check out our photos from the event: