Slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Pueblo Community College, the banquet will feature a keynote address from Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The 2017-18 scholarship recipients are:

 Karmen Rucker (Colorado State University); Rylie Villapando (University of Colorado); Alexandria Klovas (University of Colorado Colorado Springs); Rebekah Cowen (Pueblo Community College); Stephen Alvarado (Pueblo Community College); Maggie Hedrick (Colorado State University-Pueblo); Raena Vigil (CSU-Pueblo); Octavia Ervin (CSU-Pueblo).

According to spokesman Troy Harris, “PAACO provides scholarships up to $500 per semester to African-American and minority Southern Colorado students in financial need who are pursuing degrees.

“The scholarships are renewable for up to eight semesters, providing the student maintains a 2.5 GPA and perform 20 hours of community service each semester.”

Reed, the evening’s speaker, is a former Louisiana higher education official who served in the Obama’s administration as deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

She also led the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In February 2017, Hunter was appointed acting executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education by Gov. John Hickenlooper. She was confirmed as executive director a month later.

For more information on PAACO and its scholarship process, visit