Lofty Goals: Port Isabel, UT graduate headed for Stanford - Brownsville Herald: Local News

Lofty Goals: Port Isabel, UT graduate headed for Stanford

By GARY LONG Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019 8:15 pm

Janelle Chavez can still remember starting to think “why not me” in an academically competitive sense.

She was a junior at Port Isabel High School and had qualified for the UIL Spelling and Vocabulary Championships after just missing the previous year.

“So finally my junior year I made it, and I was just so content with making It. But then my parents, they’re the ones that encouraged me, said, ‘you made it, that’s great, but someone’s going to win. Why can’t it be you?’

“I just didn’t think it was possible because I had never even known someone who had gone to state … but they encouraged me and I started to believe in myself,” she said. “I come from a family of educators and they always encouraged me to strive for more education, so when it did turn out well when I went to state I started to have confidence and from that point forward I thought ‘I can do it. I’m capable. I can compete just as hard as anyone else. It was a turning point in my life. I started to think ‘why not me.’”

Chavez spent this past summer back with her parents in Port Isabel after graduating in May from the University of Texas at Austin. She plans to become a physician and medical researcher and is headed next for Stanford University.

Chavez went to UT on a 40 Acres scholarship. She’ll attend Stanford on a Knight Hennessy Scholarship. Both are extremely competitive, the Knight Hennessy being funded by co-founders of Nike and Google.

“Both of those scholarships I never thought that I could achieve them,” she said. “I didn’t know about either one until about two months before I applied for them. It wasn’t even a dream that I had. It wasn’t even a goal. They just came. It was just such a blessing. They kind of cultivate that mindset that you can change the world. They want me to dream big and become a leader, so that’s really exciting.”

Long term Chavez wants to become a physician and then some.

She said she wants “to do a lot more to change lives both in and out of the clinic. That’s been a goal since high school … but outside of that to do research and continue to generate new knowledge … and then I want to be involved with policy … and to mentor.

“I’d want to come back as a physician and a leader in the community and to do it all in the Valley because I was inspired so much by what I saw from my grandparents. … Dr. Perez was so kind to let me shadow him. That’s where I first started seeing myself in that position,” she said.

Leaving for Stanford she said she knows it will be hard, “but I’m ready for it because those four years at UT were really transformative and shaped me in a really good way and now I’m ready to make an even bigger jump.”