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Dell Scholarship winners in Brownsville share tenacity

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:33 pm

Five Brownsville students who won Dell Scholarships this year exemplify the criteria for the scholarship as well as the academics-first attitude at their schools.

Franco Estrada, Andrea Martinez, Samantha Olvera and Roy Resendiz attend Brownsville Early College High School and will graduate in June with associate’s degrees in liberal arts from the University of Texas at Brownsville to go with their high school diplomas.

Jacqueline Gracia attends IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, where admission to a four-year college or university is a graduation requirement. She will be the first in her family to attend college, a characteristic she shares with the four Dell Scholars from BECHS.All five meet a key consideration for receiving a Dell Scholarship: They have overcome significant obstacles to pursue their education. In turn, they will serve as positive role models for their siblings, their peers and their community.

“Keep going and finish college; we’ve had that pounded into our heads from the beginning,” Resendiz said. He and the other Dell recipients from BECHS belong to the school’s second graduating class. When they began, classes were held at the Brownsville Independent School District’s old Clearwater Campus on Palm Boulevard.

Last year BECHS moved into sparkling new quarters behind the Recreation, Education and Kinesiology Center on the UTB campus, which have a definite collegiate feel. The school is a collaboration between UTB and BISD, which prefers students who are not necessarily near the top of their class but who have shown significant improvement as their school careers have progressed.

“Neither of my parents have a college degree. My dad finished high school and my mom finished grade school,” Estrada said. “I want to set my kids for a better future. I want to make my parents’ sacrifices worthwhile.”

Next year, Estrada will transfer to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a career as an aerospace engineer.

Martinez also will transfer to UT-Austin and will major in engineering. She plans ultimately to become a medical doctor.

Both her parents worked as she grew up. Her mom just recently received a bachelor’s degree in education from UTB.

“To me it was inspirational,” Martinez said. “I saw how hard it was for her. She never stopped being a mom and still she had a job. … If she could do it, so can I. She said, ‘You can’t have any excuses for not going to college.’”

Olvera will remain at UTB to complete her bachelor’s degree in the pre-medical program. She plans to complete her medical degree and become a pediatrician.

Both parents were educated in Mexico; her father as a teacher, her mother as an accountant.

“When we moved to the U.S., none of us could speak English,” Olvera said. “Dad still teaches in Mexico and mom works downtown as a cashier. I find that inspiring. My mom sacrificed her career to be over here with us.”

Resendiz’s father also is from Mexico, but he came to the Rio Grande Valley from North Texas with his mother. He said he would recommend BECHS “because it is a place of opportunity, especially in academics. Here you get your high school diploma and a college degree.”

BECHS has slightly fewer than 400 students. Resendiz recommended the school “for people who like a challenge,” and added, “it’s a nice environment, too.”

Regarding scholarships, Resendiz said students should get started early. During his first three years at BECHS he researched what was available.

He, Estrada, Martinez and Olvera said they received other scholarships, which made going to college possible.

“Apply for any you think you might get,” Resendiz said. “I honestly didn’t think I would get the Dell. You won’t get it if you don’t apply.”

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation awards 300 Dell Scholarships annually. The award is $20,000 over the course of six years, plus a laptop computer and printer, money for books, a scholar networking community, mentoring and the support of other Dell Scholars past and present. The program aims to provide students with everything they need to begin and complete college.

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