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From an Inspired Donor, A Dell City Senior Gets a Welcome Surprise

Howard Dailey visiting with Tristan Smetak over the phone


Dell City School senior Tristan Smetak received a generous gift Friday, March 5, one that he certainly didn't expect. But then the giver of the gift hadn't planned on it either. Love and selflessness work in mysterious ways.


Howard Dailey – a retired math teacher and Army veteran – had laid down for a rest Thursday in his El Paso home, when he had a dream-like flash.


“All of a sudden it popped into my head,” Dailey said. “Dell City – that somebody there needed a scholarship. And so I came out to Dell City to see if that was true or not.”


Dailey and his wife made the trip here Friday morning, walked into the school office – and announced their intention to support a graduating Dell City senior. Principal Carlos A. Contreras was out at the time, and the couple explored the backroads around town before returning to the school to meet him.


Tristan and Vanessa Galvan are the two members of the Dell City High Class of 2021. Vanessa isn't planning on post-secondary education, and Contreras gave Tristan a “glowing recommendation,” Dailey said, as a worthy recipient of the scholarship.


Tristan, who is currently studying remotely, got the call at home from school staffer Susie Estrada.


“She said, 'Do you have a few minutes? Mr. Contreras wants to talk to you,'” Tristan said. “I thought – Uh, oh. But she switched the line over, and Mr. Contreras said, 'I've got some good news for you, and I've got somebody I want you to meet.'”


Dailey and Tristan visited for several minutes.


“He asked if I was the kind of kid that follows through on things,” Tristan said, “and I told him, 'Yes, sir.' Because I've had a number of things in my life that have almost fallen through, but I've been able to save them – I've managed to come through right at the end.”


Tristan said he was “struck” by Dailey's act of generosity – and he said he knew the scholarship would help him succeed.


Just a few days after his visit with Dailey, Tristan learned that his enrollment in two trade schools in Wisconsin had been confirmed. Tristan is planning to launch a career as a lineman, and he'll attend a lineman apprentice program at Chippewa Valley Technical College, and a utility construction course at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Tristan said he'll be back to visit Hudspeth County regularly.


Dailey's gift will be held by the Dell City School, and released at the proper time to the technical schools.


Dailey said he wasn't certain exactly why he'd been called to Dell City. He and his wife have a tradition of making an annual outing to Frijole Ranch, at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, for a picnic. But other than stopping in Dell City for gas, they knew little of the community.


But the couple does have a long history of giving – especially to the young. Dailey and his wife fostered 19 children – many of whom were in crisis situations, and most of whom, Dailey said, “have turned out really good.”


Dailey has given scholarship to other students in the region. And as a former teacher, he understands the importance of education.


As an educator, Dailey was able to connect with students who might be near the edge – because he had been there himself. Dailey said he entered the Army right out of high school because he “needed to grow up.”


“I could relate to students that other teachers couldn't,” he said. “I've had more than an academic life. I've had my hard knocks, and I turned my life around. I'm willing to give others a chance.”


What young people need, at critical junctures in their lives, is loving support, and a nudge in the right direction, Dailey said.


“Somebody has to care about them,” he said, “and be wiling to exercise some tough love, to get them to know they're cared for, and that the best is expected of them. I think your principal and I feel the same on that.”


Dailey said his scholarship giving is an extension of that faith and perspective.


“All you can do is influence them – you can't motivate them,” Dailey said. “But if you can help get a kid pointed in the right direction – well, that's why we're here: to love and serve others.”


Thank you, Howard, for your generosity, and congratulations, Tristan!


Howard Dailey and his wife leave the Dell City School