Scholarship honors the life of Robb Elementary victim Tess Mata

February 6, 2023 would have been Tess’ 11th birthday

UVALDETess Mata was supposed to be a bobcat just like her older sister, Faith, but instead was killed in her classroom at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022.

Now, Tess’ family is vowing to keep her legacy alive.

“Valentine’s was hers because February 6 is her birthday,” shared Veronica Mata, Tess’ mother, as she decorated her daughter’s cross in the downtown plaza.

Tess came into this world just as dramatically as she lived.

The day after the Super Bowl in 2012, Veronica and her husband, Jerry, drove from Uvalde to San Antonio. At first, the medical staff told Veronica she wasn’t ready to deliver yet, but after running a few tests, that changed.

“You’re delivering this baby now. And I was like, ‘Why? What happened?’ She’s like, ‘Your blood pressure’s way too high,’” Veronica said.

Veronica and Jerry’s youngest daughter was full of sass, sparkle, and a bit of diva energy.

“Every 5 minutes, she’d come in with a different dress to the family room. ‘How many times are you going to change Tess?’ ‘No, I’m just showing you,’” Jerry said, sharing a memory of Tess.

With their older daughter, Faith, away at Texas State University, their home is quiet without Tess’ laugh.

“I tell Jerry — I was like, ‘I miss it. I miss just hearing that laugh,’” Veronica said.

They would listen to Tess laugh from her bedroom as she watched TikTok or Facetimed with friends.

In the fourth grade, Tess told her dad to start saving for her college because she knew exactly where she wanted to go.

“She knew she was going to go to Texas State,” Veronica said.

The university made her an honorary bobcat after her death and is working with the Matas on a way to honor her life.

“When we created the scholarship, you know, we asked them to do within the health profession field,” she said.

The Tess Marie Mata Scholarship will help students to follow the dreams the 10-year-old had for herself.

“She’s got the biggest smile right now ‘cause she knows that everybody’s watching her and hearing about all the great things that she’s done and all the great things that she could have done,” Veronica said.

Their goal is to raise $25,000, so the scholarship will be endowed for years to come. You can donate by clicking here.

This May, Faith will graduate from Texas State. Her mom says Tess learned to swim so she could jump into the river at graduation with Faith, a Texas State tradition.

Now, Faith will do that while holding a picture of Tess instead.

Find more Uvalde stories from KSAT here

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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