The El Paso High class of 2018 has approximately 345 students graduating this spring, some will be joining the military, many will be attending college, including some being the first in their families to attend college including those who have received academic scholarships to help launch their next chapter in academics.
As of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education reported the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) that 84 percent of high school students graduated, a new record high, in what today is still seen by some as an impossible feat.
“It was really intense applying for these scholarships because it’s a little bit of money and you have to apply to a lot of scholarships,” senior Ana Saenz said. “You don’t get just one, you have to really work hard, and find scholarships that fit for you and fit for your major, and make sure that you’re eligible and make sure that you’re turning things in on time. It’s stressful, but it’s worth it,”
Saenz is the first in her family to attend an American university although some in her family have degrees from Mexican universities, higher education is not entirely foreign to her. As the granddaughter of educators, going to college was something she said has been encouraged.
“In four to five years, I hope to have a job in civil engineering and I actually want to move to Mexico City after college so hopefully I study international relations so that I can actually go to Mexico,” Saenz said. “I think here at El Paso High is just the competitiveness. You push each other like you see someone else work hard so you want to work hard and I feel like that’s what college is all about too. You have to discipline for yourself and work hard for yourself.”
Senior, Joel Fong had received three full rides to attend Dartmouth, Princeton, and the University of Texas at Austin with choosing to attend his “dream school”, Princeton in the fall of 2018. Without of state tuition, scholarships take the weight off of high school seniors with a specific college in mind
“It was a little stressful because where you go depends on how much scholarship money you get but at the end of the day you just got to put your best foot forward and then see what happens,” Fong said. “Going to Princeton means it’s an opportunity to advance in myself and experience new things in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have if I didn’t receive the scholarships to attend it.”
Princeton is an Ivy League school with an acceptance rate of 6.1 percent, Fong’s determination at El Paso High has helped him excel in his academic career which led him to this opportunity. As Joel is ready to start his new chapter in New Jersey, moving away from home won’t be the easiest especially being almost 2,000-miles away.
“It’s going to be hard being away from home especially because it’s so far and I’m not going to know anyone, but both myself and my family know that it’s something I got to do and I’m really excited for these new experiences and all the new people I’m going to meet,” Fong said. “I think at El Paso High it’s a really unique mix because we have the Mundos Unidos program and it’s a very bi-cultural here and it always opens you up to new experiences and I think in college you know half of it is experiencing new things which I’ve been able to do here very well.”
Stanford University has an acceptance rate of 4.8 percent and for senior, Pierce Davis, submitting his college application early helped him get accepted into this prestigious university, but with the help of scholarships, things went smoother for his senior year.
“It was a long process, I mean there’s a lot of resumes that go into it, a lot of letters of recommendations, but at the end of the day the process is really worth it because it’s helping to pay for my college education,” Davis said. “I think it’s kind of like a validation for all the hard work I’ve put into this. I mean for the past four years I’ve been putting a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of sacrifice, and I think to be accepted into this university has made it all worth awhile.”
Moving to California is a big step for Davis due to him being an only child.
“I think as an only child it’s going to be very hard because I’m so close to my parents but I think I’m going to get used to it that it’ll be a good experience and I have no problem with coming back to El Paso in the long run,” Davis said. “I think it (EPHS) gave me a really strong background and a really good sense of community and I know even when I go away I still have this family to come back to in El Paso.”