Twenty-one students pose for a photo after each was awarded scholarships from the Calexico Education Foundation during the Calexico High School Senior Spotlight on Tuesday, June 7. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO
CALEXICO — Calexico High School’s graduating seniors were awarded at least 95 different scholarships, earning the students more than half a million dollars to continue their education.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 7, Calexico High School Principal Gabrielle Williams-Ballesteros hosted the 2022 Senior Spotlight, where she announced that her students earned at least $686,300, including two full scholarships, one for $320,000 and another one for $295,000.
“I am so unbelievably proud and humbled by the students here tonight,” Williams-Ballesteros said during the Senior Spotlight.
Among those who are taking home a scholarship was 18-year-old Angel De Dios, who earned a $320,000 Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to attend Stanford University, with a major in political science.
The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective scholarship for outstanding high school seniors from low-income and minority households. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to only 300 student leaders from around the United States from a pool of about 40,000 applicants.
“I was honestly really shocked when I found out I won … I read about this scholarship when I was young, but I didn’t really ever think I would get it just because of the probability of it, which is less than 1 percent,” De Dios said on Tuesday.
In addition to the two full scholarships awarded, Calexico Education Foundation awarded 24 additional scholarship categories, totaling $46,250, ranging from $100 to more than $1,000 for individual students.
Valerie Vizcarra was one of the students who received multiple scholarships throughout the evening, with Vizcarra taking home $3,350 from at least six different scholarships.
Vizcarra plans to attend San Diego State University main campus in the fall, where she will be studying marketing and finance. Vizcarra said she had originally been planning to go into the medical field, but the pandemic forever changed that path.
“My parents own a business, so during the pandemic I went to help them … I discovered that I was an excellent public speaker and salesperson, so I decided to study marketing and finance instead,” she noted.
In addition to the scholarships earned during the Senior Spotlight, Vizcarra also earned a fellowship from SDSU’s business department, which will provide Vizcarra $28,000 for her school expenses over the next four years.
“I’m extremely grateful because each and every scholarship is going to be one step into the payment of my tuition, and it’s going to be such a great help to my family in paying for my education,” she said.
Earning four different scholarships, Kayla Nuñez brought home $6,700, including a scholarship from the Imperial County Farm Bureau, to help encourage Nuñez to continue to study the agricultural sciences.
Nuñez was accepted to the University of California, Irvine, where she plans to study veterinary medicine, so one day she could become a veterinarian on a cattle farm. Nuñez hopes to find an internship once she arrives at UC Irvine, but until her start date she plans to attend Imperial Valley College to gain credits.
Nuñez credits her parents for her success and thanked them profusely after winning her awards.
“I feel very proud, knowing all my hard work over the past four years have paid off … My parents really pushed me to get good grades and be involved in my community, and it’s really helped me to get where I am today,” she said.
While all the students were excited to receive the scholarships, the strongest emotional reaction came from someone who got a relatively small amount, Christian Bravo.
Bravo was only awarded $1,500 but was moved to tears after receiving the Wendz Family Technical Career Scholarship. As other students chatted happily about the schools they would be attending, Bravo wept over having his voice being heard.
“I feel like I’ve been listened to for the first time in a long time, so that’s why I started to cry … I am so excited and happy,” Bravo said.
His journey through high school has not been an easy one. Bravo shared that his relationship with his parents is strained, and that he often felt unheard by them.
Rather than letting this struggle get the best of him, Bravo used it to motivate himself and was accepted by the California State University, San Marcos, where he plans to study nursing. Bravo’s eventual hope is that he will be able to become a psychiatric nurse to help those who are struggling like he is.
“My relationship with my parents is the main reason I want to go into psychiatric nursing … thinking about helping others, it just brings me happiness,” he said.