Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation Working With Marijuana Scholarship Funds

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It's the first scholarship program in the country to be funded by cannabis dollars and it's happening right here in Southern Colorado.

Now, Pueblo county commissioners are working with another local organization to keep growing this scholarship program.

Monday morning, commissioners approved a letter of intent to start working with Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation (PHEF). Scholarship funds from the cannabis excise tax will be matched with state dollars from the College Opportunity Fund.

For 2017 they expect to generate around $700,000 for the scholarships. With the help of the state matching dollars, the funds could reach almost $1 million over the next year and a half.

County Commissioner Sal Pace says the impact for the community is huge.

"A couple years ago, these are dollars that would have been going to the black market, drug cartels...now money that's used to fund drug cartels is now being used to fund college scholarships."

These scholarships are for any Pueblo County or city students attending a college in Pueblo.

Beverly Duran is the executive director for PHEF. She says with growing tuition rates, more scholarship money is crucial for Pueblo.

"We have such need in our community as you know, growing tuition rates and decreased funding, so this is not an opportunity that we always come across with the ability to afford more scholarships for students."

Duran tells 11 News, with more money in this scholarship fund, Pueblo students can seek educational opportunities they might not have thought were an option in the past.

"Putting money behind these students and helping advocate that there are opportunities available to them and that financial barriers will no longer be an issue, I think is going to be a great benefit to our community."

Pace thinks working with PHEF with help the overall distribution of these scholarships.

"We actually thought it was important to contract with PHEF because they have expertise in scholarships and administering scholarships," Pace said.

Duran says they want to keep growing these funds, which would eventually allow each individual scholarship to increase.

"We would really want this to be a multi-year award to students because obviously our ultimate goal is that these students are graduation...we're looking at two-year and four-year problem," she says.

Right now the application process for these particular scholarships is still in the works.