1996 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"I am determined to be successful in life, and I take God as my partner."
The daughter of a sharecropper, Louise Herrington Ornelas grew up in poverty, but the love of her parents carried the family through the worst of the Depression. The family of 12 lived in a rented house on a farm. Her father worked the farm, and the children had chores. Ornelas was in charge of milking the cow for the owner of the farm. She bought shoes with the money she earned from that job. When her father needed extra money, he worked in the oil fields and all the children took care of the crops.
Even though they were poverty stricken, Ornelas says her parents never turned away strangers looking for handouts. One of her favorite pastimes was to look through the Sears catalog, dreaming of one day having store-bought clothes. Her mother made her dresses from flour sacks, and Ornelas decided at an early age she would find a way to rise above her situation.
When she was 18, she married and worked in a restaurant while her husband went to college. When he graduated, they opened their own restaurant and Ornelas took management courses at the junior college. Unfortunately, her husband was killed in a car accident and Ornelas was forced to move back to her hometown to be near family. A few years later she remarried.
Dreaming of owning their own business, Ornelas and her husband bought a bankrupt cable system in Sulphur Springs, Texas. They quickly taught themselves the cable business and worked hard to make it a success. In 1999, their cable company was sold to Cox Communications for $4 billion.
Ornelas says she is proud of the work the Association has done for America's deserving youth. "Getting an education is such an important step in trying to better your situation in life," she says. "I am honored to be a part of an Association that is doing so much to help our young people."