Hoots Gives a Hoot for Scholarship Funds

Rice Quad

For nearly 20 years, the Higher Order of Owl Tailgating Society (HOOTS) has set a tent up in front of Rice Stadium during home football games to help raise scholarship funds for first-generation college students whose parents work at Rice.

In the game against North Texas Oct. 30, HOOTS had its trademark green tent set up and an array of people congregated to share an enthused attitude, an appreciation for shade and a rooting interest — the Rice Owls. The tent began serving two hours before kickoff and sold hamburgers and beverages.

In front of the tent, members of the HOOTS team were ready to provide information about their mission and the students they help.

“When we are out at tailgates and someone asks, ‘What is HOOTS?’ I love telling our story and what we do,” said HOOTS president Diana DeSantiago. “Before COVID, many of the grateful scholarship recipients would be in front of the tent volunteering and doing their best to raise money for the recipients’ successors. For now, all they can do is simply enjoy the tailgate.”

HOOTS’ goal is simple: Enjoy school spirit through football and raise money to help students whose parents work in Facilities Engineering and Planning; Housing and Dining; Transportation and Parking; and the Rice University Police Department. The funds help cover tuition, fees and books. Many of the scholarship recipients have attended Rice University, Trinity University and Austin College.

“Our scholarship recipients are the best,” said DeSantiago. “Because the departments that make up our organization are so much like a family, we have known many of these students for a very long time.”

In 1998, HOOTS established a scholarship endowment fund, which now amounts to nearly $300,000. Over the last 20 years, HOOTS has awarded scholarships to more than 50 students for a total of almost $150,000.

HOOTS has every intention of increasing that figure and has been recently backed by Rice Athletics. HOOTS spreads the word through social media and is still looking to expand. “Adding departments across campus would increase the engagement with our organization,” DeSantiago said. She also urges those aware of the program to spread the word.

“The more HOOTS is known for the work it does, the more our scholarship funds will grow and the more students we will be able to help.

“HOOTS has been running for about 20 years,” she said. “Tailgating is a founding principle, and we will continue to raise money doing just that.

— Paul David Michie-Derrick
Special to Rice at Large


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