Sonora Grill raises money for WSU scholarship

Ogden’s Sonora Grill hosted its second annual Dining for Dollars event Thursday. All of the sales earned throughout the day were donated to the Sonora Grill Scholarship Fund, supporting first-generation college students at Weber State University.

With the restaurant open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the event raised $12,000 just in sales, which was then matched by an anonymous donor to bring the total to $24,000.

The Sonora Grill Scholarship is a two-year, full-ride scholarship awarded to one WSU sophomore.

Steve Ballard, owner of Sonora Grill, said he wanted the scholarship to target students who are unable to receive financial assistance.

“The thing that makes this scholarship unique is that it targets first-generation college students, and it also targets students who aren’t FAFSA eligible,” Ballard said. “There are several reasons why you wouldn’t qualify, but one of them being that your parents aren’t residents or citizens.”

Nestor Robles was the Sonora Grill Scholarship’s first recipient. Robles and his family migrated from Mexico and have lived in Utah for about 15 years. Now a junior at WSU, Robles is majoring in graphic design with a minor in entrepreneurship.

“It motivated me to keep going,” said Robles of the scholarship, “especially since, (in) the situation that I am in, I can’t apply for any FAFSA money or anything like that, so it felt really good.”

Robles said the scholarship has taken away some of his financial worry and allowed him to focus on school.

“They’re paying for all my classes, which otherwise would require me to work a lot of hours,” Robles said. “Instead of taking a break from school, I just keep going and taking classes and not getting sidetracked or anything like that. It’s helped me in a lot of ways.”

Ballard said Nestor was particularly deserving of the scholarship due to his active role in the community.

“One thing that stood out with Nestor is that he was very involved throughout the university in a lot of extracurricular groups and organizations and clubs,” Ballard said. “Not only was he going to school and working so hard, he was also so involved in giving back. That was what really stood out to us.”

Last year’s inaugural Dining for Dollars raised enough money to offer partial scholarships to about 24 students in addition to the full-ride scholarship winner.

“All the other money that we don’t use, we divvy that up and give it to the runners up,” Ballard said. “For the people who applied and qualified and met the criteria but didn’t get the title scholarship, we take the money and divide it up based on need to help students go in their educational pursuits at Weber State.”

Ballard said he is pleased with the success of his event and how it has impacted lives.

“It feels good to hear the stories of some of the students,” Ballard said. “It’s really neat to see kids who really didn’t have much of an option before this go, ‘Wow, I’ve got an opportunity and this gives me a chance.’”

This year’s scholarship winner will be announced sometime in May, Ballard said.

Sonora Grill partnered with the WSU Development Office, the John B. Goddard School of Business and Economics, and the Multicultural Student Center to award the scholarship.

“Weber State has such a large number of low-income, first-generation students,” said Denise Thielfoldt, WSU development director for Student Affairs. “I think that it’s a great thing for Weber State and our community that we have community partners with passion about this.”