The Ellis County Hispanic Organization (ECHO) held its ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, July 11 at the law offices of Julissa Martinez. She serves as the organization's president and said this event is to be used as a celebration for becoming the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce's newest member.

Martinez said ECHO is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting Latino culture, arts, education, economic intercultural partnerships and goodwill between the towns in Ellis County. As she stressed the importance of the organization, Martinez also talked about the origin of ECHO.

“In 2008 a chamber member approached me to start this program,” Martinez said. “In 2009, a bunch of us got together to see how we could bring art and education and cultural events here to Ellis County and that is when we became an official organization.”

Martinez said that was also the first year they hosted the Cinco de Mayo event in downtown Waxahachie.

“Thanks to the generosity of Mark Singleton and Citizens National Bank we were able to host our first Cinco de Mayo celebration,” she said. “Through our partnership with Cruz Services Incorporated we brought award winning Tejano music like Baraja de Oro to the event as well.”

The organization has had opportunities to partner with other business establishments to provide scholarships for Hispanic students in the county.

“We are starting to branch out and issue more scholarships,” she Martinez said. “We are very concerned with promoting the education of Ellis County students.”

As she discussed upcoming events, Martinez said they are receiving scholarship applications and will begin reviewing them on Aug. 7.

“We are accepting scholarship applications as we speak,” she said. “That application deadline is Aug. 1 for the fall and a decision will be reached Aug. 20. We will provide two scholarships of $500 each to the scholarship recipients.”

In order to qualify for the scholarship, a student must be enrolled or planning to enroll in an accredited college or university including two-year colleges and vocational schools in the United States. The scholarships can be used for the payment of tuition, academic fees or for the purchase of the required materials and books.

Martinez said that ECHO is also involved in other community projects such as the ice skating rink in downtown, which is open during the Christmas holiday.

“We tackle the weekend. We give out the skates and we do all of this free of charge,” she said. “This past weekend we also repaired some shingles at Hope Clinic.”

The organization has several members that are disc jockeys who volunteer their time at school functions.

One ECHO's community partners is Navarro College Waxahachie campus. Martinez said they provide information for Latino students who are planning on attending the college during one of the information sessions the college offers.

Speaking on behalf of the college was the Dean of Academic Services Terry Gibson.

“We are just really excited about this organization,” Gibson said. “Julissa has been such a wonderful support to the Hispanic community and to the different things that we've offered at the college. There is so much more that we can be doing and the more of us that can ban together and provide scholarship opportunities and information opportunities, the better it is for this community.”

Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson, a Waxahachie Chamber of Commcerce member, said it's hard to dispute the increasing size of the Hispanic community, not just in Waxahachie, but Ellis County. He said it's great to have ECHO as a member of the chamber, and he is looking forward to them becoming more active in the community.

Chamber member Jimmy Poarch added that he's glad to have ECHO as a partner with the chamber, and he has enjoyed being a judge in the hot sauce contest at the Cinco de Mayo festival for the past two years.

Martinez said that ECHO is out there and more involved in the community than what people realize. She said that is what led them to become members of the chamber of commerce.

“Since we're more involved, we felt becoming a member of the chamber would only enhance our efforts,” she said. “It takes all of us to build this community and we are very proud be members of the chamber.”

For more information about the organization, contact Julissa Martinez at 972-937-4477 or visit Facebook.com/ECHO.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.