High school students Melissa Castano of Edinburg, Texas, and Atanacio Gomez of Eagle Pass, Texas, were named Students of the Year on March 31, by the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program at The University of Texas at Austin.
Each student received a $2,000 college scholarship funded by a gift from ExxonMobil. Castano, who has a grade average of 97.64, and Gomez, who has a grade average of 100.09, were among 40 migrant students honored in the ballroom of the Texas Union for their exemplary achievements during the university’s annual Exemplary Migrant Student Recognition Ceremony.
The event was attended by about 360 guests, including migrant students from 31 high schools in 21 Texas school districts. More than 1,000 Texas migrant students are completing their high school graduation requirements this year through the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, which is administered by the K-16 Education Center within the university’s Division of Continuing Education.
This year, ExxonMobil increased its annual gift from $4,000 to $10,000, which allowed the program to award a $2,000 scholarship to each of the top five exemplary migrant students. The recipients in addition to Castano and Gomez were Rolando Gonzalez, Leonardo Chavez and Isai Pruneda.
Gonzalez and Chavez are seniors at La Joya High School in La Joya, Texas. Isai Pruneda is from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in San Juan, Texas. Students were selected on the basis of obstacles overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities and their performance in distance learning courses in the university’s Migrant Student Program.
“This ceremony was especially meaningful because it was held on the birthday of Cesar Chavez and near the newly erected statue of Cesar Chavez,” said Dr. Felipe Alanis, associate dean of continuing education and K-16 education. “As one of the most heroic figures of our time and the strongest advocate for migrant farm workers in the 20th century, Cesar Chavez is an inspiration to our migrant students. Having the statue on the university campus strengthens our message to migrant students that there is a place for them on a college campus.”
Castano, a senior at Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg, Texas, is the oldest child of Ricardo and Maria del Jesus Castano. She ranks 13th in a class of 537 students and is the highest-ranked migrant student in her school.