From grieving to giving, one family turns tragedy into catalyst to help others

Nov 7, 2022Courtney Morris

Nellie Uribe uses three words to describe how her middle child, Amanda, entered this world: "fast and furious."

"I didn't ever think there would be any other pain that would come close to that," she said.

She uses the same words to describe how Amanda left almost 23 years later — Nov. 12, 2019.

Nellie and her husband, Rene, choke back tears remembering that day. When Amanda walked out the door, they never guessed it would be the last time. On her drive to her San Jacinto College art class, a car accident claimed her life.

Grief touches everyone differently. For the Uribes, Amanda's passing still evokes raw emotion, but this tragedy has become the catalyst to make an impact.

Helping students achieve their dreams

Amanda's Legacy Foundation Scholarship
From left: Nellie Uribe, Monique Torres, and Rene Uribe

Established in late 2020, Amanda's Legacy Foundation gives to three areas Amanda valued most: the arts, animal rights causes, and random acts of kindness.

Through the San Jacinto College Foundation, Nellie and Rene have created a scholarship to help other South Campus art and design students achieve their dreams. This September, they met the 2022-2023 recipient, Monique Torres.

The three connected immediately.

Torres comes from a large family, where celebration and loss go hand in hand. Before her 16th birthday, she lost five cousins in a home fire. Like Amanda, she has volunteered at animal shelters and found her outlet in art. Her mom also shares Amanda's nickname, "Amanda Panda."

During their meeting, Nellie and Rene spread some of Amanda's sketches and pen-and-ink art across the table. Torres studied each.

"Eyes are difficult and intriguing to draw," she said, admiring Amanda's skill in capturing the windows to the soul.

Rene, a Marine veteran, shared how their family uprooted multiple times and weathered his deployments. Torres has a military background too — from participating in high school JROTC to enlisting in the Navy. But her military career ended after a boot camp injury and medical discharge.

For four years, she struggled to find her purpose. While some told her she couldn't make a career of art, she was always happiest when creating. Now, thanks to the scholarship, Torres is "excited and nervous" about her new journey toward a graphic design career.

Opening eyes to needs

Art by Amanda Uribe (courtesy of Amanda's Legacy Foundation)

The Uribes created Amanda's Legacy Foundation to make dreams like Torres' possible. While Amanda could be feisty — someone you didn't want to cross — she had a huge heart for others.

"When she was younger, we would give her money when she went out with her friends," Rene said. "She was always taking care of them. She would say, 'I'll pay. I got you.'"

Amanda accepted everyone, imperfections included. Amid personal challenges, she found her voice in art. That art is how the Uribes are preserving her memory.

Weeks after Amanda's death, Nellie stumbled across intricate drawings in her sketchbook and journal. Awed, she pictured Amanda's art on T-shirts, jewelry, and more. Meanwhile, Rene envisioned something else: a memorial scholarship for San Jac and Clear Brook High School students.

With the foundation, they merged the two ideas, selling products featuring Amanda's art to fund causes she cared about.

Beyond scholarships, the Uribes focus on random acts of kindness. Losing Amanda has opened their eyes to pain and need around them. That homeless man, someone else's child, sitting alone. That elderly woman, hands trembling, counting out nickels and dimes in the checkout line. That weary mom, child on her hip, selling bouquets at the intersection.

A kind word — a little generosity — can change a person's life.

"It might be the last piece they needed, what they were waiting for," Rene said.

Today, from San Jac students to strangers, the Uribes are spreading the love Amanda embodied each day.

"We're here for such a short time," Rene said. "What are we going to do with that time?"

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