Arlington, Texas – In the distinguished Arlington Independent School District (AISD), Yessenia Martin and Kruz Hernandez have unquestionably become paragons of scholastic success. Their achievement, however, far surpasses the now ubiquitous attainment of associate degrees by high school graduates, a feat now considered customary at both Arlington Collegiate High School and Arlington College and Career High School.
The remarkable distinction attained by Martin and Hernandez is encapsulated in their receipt of the prestigious Gates Scholarship, an honorarium intended to foster the intellectual growth of outstanding minority high school seniors. Their success underscores their inherent potential, validated through this recognition, and sets them on a path to robust academic careers.
A staggering 51,000 aspirants vied for this prized scholarship, which confers the boon of a full ride to a university of the recipient’s choice. Yet, only 750 emerged victorious from this rigorous selection process, which necessitates an online application, the composition of essays, the acquisition of recommendations, and a final interview before the scholarships are conferred.
For Martin, the valedictorian at Arlington Collegiate High School, and Hernandez, the student council president at Arlington College and Career High School, the triumph is particularly significant. Both are the pioneering members of their families to attend college, marking a milestone in their familial history as they have roots in Mexico.
Their shared journey began at Berry Elementary and will now continue at the University of Texas at Austin, cementing their bond and shared academic ambition. This triumphant narrative of two high-achieving students is a testament to their unwavering dedication and the vibrant academic environment fostered by Arlington ISD.
“It was very unexpected,” said Martin, who plans to major in computer science at Texas. “It was a really competitive scholarship. What are the odds of me getting it? It gives me the freedom to go to the school I desire vs. choosing based on money. UT-Austin was my first choice and when I heard I got the scholarship, I was going to UT-Austin.”
In a twist of fate, the Gates Scholarship has transformed the academic paths of Martin and Hernandez, two promising students hailing from Arlington Collegiate High School (ACCHS).
Initially, Martin had committed to the University of Texas at Dallas, a decision sweetened by a full scholarship. However, the awarding of The Gates Scholarship unlocked the doors to her dream school – the University of Texas at Austin.
As a trailblazer for her family, being the first to attend college, Martin underscores the significance of education, a value deeply ingrained within her household. With her elder siblings being college graduates and 70-plus college hours already under her belt, she’s ready to blaze her own academic trail. Her deep gratitude towards her parents for their sacrifices is a driving force behind her ambition. With an unwavering dedication akin to her parents’ work ethic, she has set her sights on earning a master’s degree to ultimately aid underrepresented students in the STEM field.
Hernandez, on the other hand, initially envisioned the University of Texas as a dream rather than a destination. His original prospects included accepting a scholarship offer from Texas Wesleyan University or possibly enlisting in the Air Force. This trajectory shifted on the pivotal date of April 20, when he became aware of his Gates Scholarship status.
“I was waiting on that announcement for a while,” said Hernandez, who is part of the first senior class at ACCHS. “I had the time written down everywhere. I sat at the computer from 6 to 7 refreshing my browser and waiting for that email. It came out maybe three minutes after 7. That was a gut-wrenching three minutes. I was thinking that maybe they sent it to the winners and the ones who didn’t get it after. Then it came through.”
With this transformative opportunity, he now plans to pursue neuroscience with aspirations of either entering medical school or embarking on a research career.
Born to a father who migrated from Mexico at a young age, Hernandez also stands as the first in his family to attend college.
“My father was born in Mexico and moved over here when he was really young,” Hernandez said. “It feels surreal, especially for Hispanic families like us. There are only a few pathways we normally take. I work with my father. We’re painters and do construction. To be the first in my family is a big deal. It’s going to change all of our lives.”
Dr. Ben Bholan, the Principal of Arlington Collegiate High School, believes that Hernandez’s achievement serves as an inspiration for future students. He envisions Hernandez’s journey as a pathway for others to follow.
“It’s huge because once you have a student like that you can point to something that’s tangible,” Bholan said. “They can come back and talk to others about it. It can be motivating to others to see the growth of that student. It’s motivating for the students and the staff also.”
— DallasMetro.news (@DallasMetroNews) May 29, 2023