Thirty-three Lake Highlands seniors were called out of class Wednesday to learn they’d be receiving college scholarships from the Lake Highlands Women’s League. For many, it was one more step toward realization of a dream which until recently seemed impossible.
“It definitely puts pressure on me, being the first generation in my family to attend college,” said Enrique Garcia Franco, “but it’s mostly pressure I put on myself, because I want to be successful, I want to surpass, I want to leave a legacy for my younger brothers.”
Enrique was 8 when his family moved to America from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. One brother is in 8th grade at Forest Meadow Junior High and another is in Kindergarten at Aikin Elementary.
“I’ve already enrolled in Neumont University in Salt Lake City, Utah,” Enrique continued. “It’s a private, specialized computer science school, one of the best in the country. 96% of their graduates find a job within 6 months of graduation. I’m a bit nervous about going to school out-of-state, but I have friends and family there. It’s bittersweet for my parents, but they are proud. My little brother tells me ‘I’m gonna get your room.’”
“I kind of had a feeling I would win this scholarship,” Paola Blas told me. “I just had fun in the interview, it went really well.”
“I’m a mini-mom to my friends – I’m constantly on them about putting away their phone and doing their assignments and finishing their college apps. I help my friends stay focused on the main, important things. They always say ‘you’re such a mom.’”
Paola will attend Stephen F. Austin to study nursing.
“Neither of my parents had an opportunity to go to college. Both of my parents came from Mexico and their whole idea was for me and my siblings to get an education and not get lost in the things of this world. They want us to do well in school in order to have a better life. They will be very happy about this scholarship.”
Paola told me she feels lucky that her parents give her the freedom to pursue her own dreams.
“My parents let me make my own choices. I guess at one point they wanted to go to college, and, since they weren’t given the opportunity, they really want me to. But they haven’t pushed their desires about what career to pursue on me. They’ve let me make my own choices and given me the opportunity to go to school. I really want to do well, but it’s for my own motivation, not so much to please them.”
Anastasia Kovanova says she learned English by reading the dictionary.
When she came to America 8 years ago, she began by bringing her mother to school with her. “She sat next to me and translated things for me,” Anastasia told me. “Then I realized ‘I’m not making any friends this way. I’m the weird friend that brings Mom to school.’
“So we sat down with a bunch of books and I started reading them. Before you know it, I was speaking English.”
Anastasia expressed gratitude to the members of Lake Highlands Women’s League.
“It was a little bit intimidating, walking into the room for the interview,” she admitted. “There’s just a bunch of women at a circular table, all staring at you,” she laughed. “But all of them were really friendly and nice.”
Alie Dinger agreed.
“We have a really great community that is willing to help Lake Highlands High School seniors go to college, and I’m excited that they chose me. My mom will be so happy.”
The recipients will be honored at Awards Night at the school, and the Women’s League will host a reception for them May 23rd at LHFC at 10:30 a.m. Parents, teachers, mentors and community members are welcome to attend.
Here’s the complete list of deserving recipients: Mary Adegbembo, Sonia Aikhionbare, Cynthia Benitez Avila, Paola Blas, Hayley Boles, Diana Damian, Alicia Dinger, Yalyn Dominquez-Sanchez, Edidiong O Edet, Enrique Garcia Franco, Rubel Ghebermicael, Suzie Ghidei, Christopher Guerra, Bilkisu Hamidou, Brandi Hammonds, Olivia Kamgang, Ayda Kassim, Durga Khadka, Anastasia Kovanova, Jesus Medina, Anayeli Montiel, Judy Mwangi, Alexander Moser, Emily Oben, Holly Prince, Ksanet Seghid, Hiba Shareef, Colin Smitham, Ari Solorio, Nardos Tola, Raul Velasquez, Jr., Hayley Wilhelm and Callie Wood.