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Continuing and Innovative Education, The University of Texas at Austin

Transcriptions - Peggy Wimberley

Peggy Wimberley, Dennis Luna, Rene Mendoza:

Peggy Wimberley: Thank you Representative Pena.

Congratulations to our scholarship and Creative Award recipients and to all of our exemplary migrant students. It is an honor to celebrate you today and hear about your remarkable achievements and extraordinary dedication to achieving your goals.

Before I begin the next portion of the ceremony, I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the former migrant students in our audience who are now attending college. Some of these students are previous Exemplary Students or Students of the Year. Some served on the 2011 scholarship selection committee. Earlier today some of these students shared their college experiences during a panel discussion and joined our school districts for lunch at one of our student dining centers. After this ceremony, some of the students will conduct a campus tour. Thank you for making our high school students feel welcome on our UT Austin campus and giving them a preview of college life.

Would all the former migrant students in the audience please stand?

Now the moment has come to reveal the names of the 2011 Students of the Year. Each student will receive a framed award and a $2,000 scholarship provided by a gift from ExxonMobil.

This year for the first time, ExxonMobil has also funded a student intern for our program. This student, Alexis Fernandez, will soon become the first Exemplary Migrant Student to graduate from the School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. (Applause) Please stand Alexis. (Applause) Alexis is also our 2006 Student of the Year.

At this time, I want like to extend a very special thank you to our ExxonMobil representative, Sara Tays. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many migrant students. Please join me in a round of applause.

The first 2011 Student of the Year will graduate under the state’s most rigorous graduation plan. He has been migrating for as long as he can remember to Montana, where he works cleaning sugar beet and peanut fields. After working all day, he spent his evenings attending a summer migrant program in Sidney, Montana, where he earned credit in Physics and two additional courses through the UT Migrant Student Program. He is also active in extracurricular activities and plays football on the varsity team. In addition, he is a member of the Sky’s the Limit Migrant Club, the Pre-law Club, and the Debate Team. This spring he will become the first one in his family to graduate from high school. After graduation, he plans to attend law school at Texas Tech University to become a corporate lawyer.

The 2011 Student of the Year is from Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg, Texas: Dennis Luna.

I would like to ask Dennis and his Edinburg migrant educator, Diana Alejos, and his Montana migrant educator, Bridget Farr, to come to the stage.

(Scholarship check presented by Dean Ashcroft and Representative Pena.)

Now I want to ask Dennis to come to the podium to give his acceptance speech.

Dennis Luna: My name is Dennis Luna. I am honored to be here. I thank you for inviting me. I would like to thank my parents for the life we lead. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend. I want to thank the UT Austin Migrant Student Program. I want to thank Cory Crow for her assistance and her patience, and to thank the Johnny G. Economedes migrant staff for making my life less difficult. The UT Graduation Enhancement Program has allowed me to graduate with my class on the distinguished graduation plan. Again, thank you.

Peggy Wimberley: The second Student of the Year migrated with his parents and three brothers to Minnesota and Missouri where he worked in the sugar beet fields. He attended high school in both states and has excelled with his studies, which include concurrent enrollment courses from The University of Texas-Pan American.He has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks in the top four percent of his class. He also played football and ran track and cross country throughout high school. He is an active member of numerous school organizations including the Science Club and the National Technical Honor Society. He has volunteered more than 100 hours of community service.

After he graduates under the Distinguished Achievement Plan this spring, he plans to attend The University of Texas at Austin and major in biomedical engineering. He aspires to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in this field.

The 2011 Student of the Year is from Edinburg High School in Edinburg, Texas: Rene Mendoza.

Would Carlos Mendoza also come to the stage? Carlos is Rene’s older brother and is currently a senior at St. Edward’s University.

Now Rene would you please come to podium to give you acceptance speech?

Rene Mendoza: Hi, my name is Rene Mendoza and I’m a senior at Edinburg High School. First of all, I want to say that I’m honored to win this award. My goal in life is to be successful and go beyond my ancestors and achieve higher education. My experiences have taught me that it takes hard work to be successful. My life has been very tough as a migrant worker. I know firsthand what it means to work in the fields doing labor. Working was very intense because we worked in the heat and muddy conditions, which I know many of you can relate to. Walking in mile-long fields in the hot sun all day was very tiring. The worst part was watching my mother having to endure those dreadful times. This is why I’m committed to do whatever it takes to go to college and graduate. As my life has progressed, I have seen what I need to do to work hard and to reach my goals and have a better life and provide for my family. I plan to pursue a career in engineering. This area interests me not only from a math and science standpoint, but also from a cultural view. I believe that there are not many Hispanics in this area. We are underrepresented in this field. As a Hispanic, it would be my pleasure to contribute my efforts to this field. My goal in life is to be triumphant.  I want to be independent and a leader in the engineering field and a role model for others.  In order to reach this goal I must be the best I can be. I plan to purse an electoral degree. I have set high expectations for myself to reach this goal and further improve myself. Through post-secondary education, I hope to secure a quality life. I see myself enjoying this challenging path that will lead to growth and development. A college education will provide for my family so we will have a brighter, safer and more opportunistic future. I want to thank everyone, including my parents and my siblings, for their moral and social support and to my counselor, Mr. Roberto Garcia, for having faith in me and encouraging me to never give up. To the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, I thank them for this wonderful recognition. Thank you.

Peggy Wimberley: Congratulations to the Students of the Year and all the 2011 Exemplary Migrant Students. I am inspired by your amazing accomplishments and wish you continued success on your educational journey.

Next on our program, is a very special performance by one of our Exemplary Migrant Students who is a very talented singer and one of our Creative Award applicants.

Esmeralda Perez from Eagle Pass High School will sing a traditional folk song, “de Colores.”

She will sing without musical accompaniment, which will allow us to more richly appreciate the sound of her beautiful voice.

Please help me welcome Esmeralda Perez.

(Esmeralda Perez sings “de Colores”)