RIGO DIAZ ’89 can’t get enough of listening to USC students talk about their lives, especially Latino students. He understands their experiences all too well, because he was once one of them.
His single mom, a dancer, raised him and his three siblings with the help of welfare and food stamps. By the time he’d graduated from high school, the Diazes had moved 17 times across East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
Diaz knows that he would never have become a Trojan if it hadn’t been for two forces: his mother, who pushed for his education, and the USC Latino Alumni Association (LAA)—founded 40 years ago as the Mexican American Alumni Association—which provided him with a scholarship. At USC, Diaz walked on to the football team and majored in business. He formed lifelong friendships with Trojans from all walks of life, and it was through his roommate that he met his wife, Kim.
With a successful real estate business of his own, a grateful Diaz now gives back. He serves on the LAA’s board and co-chairs an endowment initiative that aims to raise $3 million for scholarships for USC Latino students. In March, at LAA’s 40th anniversary scholarship gala, several of these students told the alumni and others in attendance how the scholarships enabled them to go to college. “When you’re there,” Diaz says, “it’s emotional because you hear what these kids do, and have to go through, to get to USC.”
Diaz vows to keep rallying other Trojans to support tomorrow’s students. “It is absolutely essential to pay it forward,” he says. “There have got to be more of these stories, and the only way is to help.”