With a little less than a month left to fill out the census, Rio Grande Valley leaders are in the final stretch of a months-long campaign to boost the region’s response rate.

One of those efforts is the RGV Census Ambassador Scholarship program, a partnership between the Valley Alliance for Mentors Opportunities and Scholarships, local leaders and businesses that is aiming to incentivize local students to get census forms filled out with $1,000 scholarships.

The program is open to high school, vocational and college students residing in the Valley. To enter, students submit a valid 2020 census completion number on the scholarship website.

“In exchange, when those students provide us with confirmation codes from people who have completed the census, they are put into basically a raffle for a $1,000 scholarship,” Ibrahim Garza, student ambassador with Hidalgo County Region One, said. “In terms of how many we’re distributing, we’re looking at distributing $100,000 worth of $1,000 scholarships.”

Garza says there’s no limit to how many codes students can send in.

“We want to encourage as many as possible. They can submit as many as they’d like,” he said.

Contending with lower participation in census programs because of the COVID-19 pandemic and misconceptions about the census, Garza says the scholarship program organizers are hoping to get more students to participate.

“Those numbers are going up, and that’s why we need to get as much noise out there as possible,” he said. “Right now Valleywide we’re at 49% in census turnout and we’re trying to get to 70%, and we’re facing a lot of barriers.”

As of Aug. 19, 351 students have applied for the program, 220 college students from 26 institutions and 131 high schoolers from 24 local districts.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was leading the pack among colleges and universities with 123 submissions from its students, followed by South Texas College, Texas A&M University College Station, Texas State Technical College and Texas Southmost College.

Brownsville ISD had the most submissions among local districts with 29, followed by Edinburg, Harlingen, PSJA and McAllen school districts.

To participate in the scholarship program or learn more about it, visit https://www.rgvcensusscholarship.org.