Eric Guajardo and Jessica Reyna
2012 Exemplary Migrant Students of the Year Eric Guajardo and Jessica Reyna

Eric Guajardo and Jessica Reyna named the Exemplary Migrant Students of the Year


High school students Eric Guajardo from Alamo, Texas, and Jessica Reyna, from La Joya, Texas, were named “Students of the Year” on Monday, April 2, 2012, 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. The Exemplary Migrant Students of the Year were selected on the basis of obstacles overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities, and performance in distance learning courses offered by the university's Migrant Student Program.

Guajardo and Reyna were among 40 migrant students honored at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center Ballroom for their exemplary achievements during the university’s 25th annual Exemplary Migrant Student Recognition Ceremony. The event was attended by approximately 300 guests, including migrant students from 19 Texas school districts. More than 1,800 Texas migrant students are completing their high school graduation requirements this year through the program, which is administered by the K–16 Education Center within the Division of Continuing and Innovative Education.

“Our Exemplary Migrant Students give us many reasons to celebrate at the K-16 Education Center, where our mission is to help students reach their goal of high school graduation. All of the 40 recognized students are graduating from high school after earning credits through our Migrant Student Program,” said Gisela Greco-Llamas, Director of the K-16 Education Center. “Each year, this event gives us the opportunity to give our students first-hand experience of college life and encourage them to continue their education beyond high school. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of this program, it is gratifying to learn about past exemplary students who have achieved the careers they dreamed about when they were high school students.”

Eric Guajardo has migrated to Moorhead, Minnesota, for as long as he can remember where he cleans sugar beet fields. Eric considers his experiences of migrating to be a big part of who he is now. Currently, Eric is an accomplished student at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Memorial High School in Alamo, Texas, where he is the number one senior in his class of 538 students. As a result of his academic excellence, Eric was named both an Advanced Placement Scholar and a National Hispanic Scholar and was featured as “Student of the Week” by a local news channel. Eric also holds leadership positions in his school as president of the Graduating Excellent Migrant Students Club and copy editor of the yearbook. Through his involvement in the National Honor Society and Key Club, Eric has volunteered numerous hours to his community at nursing homes, Special Olympic events and cleanup projects.

When he thinks of his future goals, Eric looks to his brother and sister who both obtained college degrees. Helping with an illness that his father suffered last year has encouraged Eric to study to become a doctor. Eric will be well on his way to achieving his goal of pursuing a medical degree at Stanford University when he graduates this spring as valedictorian of his class and with 70 hours of college credit hours.

Jessica Reyna started migrating at the age of 13 in order to help her family financially. Since then, her summer migrations have included journeys to Illinois and Indiana where she worked in the fields detasseling corn. In additional to helping with finances, Jessica also aspires to help her family by becoming a positive role model for her younger sisters and niece.

One way Jessica provides a good example is by excelling with her high school studies. Now a senior, Jessica has made the A/B Honor Roll throughout high school and has maintained a 3.7 grade point average. As a member of the Health Science Academy, Jessica earned over 50 college hours in dual enrollment classes at La Joya High School and South Texas Community College. In addition to her academic pursuits, Jessica is also an accomplished musician. Jessica was selected to play the flute at the regional band level, received multiple superior ratings at band competitions, and plays with the South Texas Youth Symphony. Jessica also participates in numerous student organizations such as the National Honor Society and Student Council. One of Jessica’s main goals in life is to give back to her community and make it a better place. To this end, she has contributed numerous hours as a volunteer at a housing charity and a local hospital.

After Jessica graduates under the Distinguished Achievement Program this spring, she plans to attend Baylor University, where she has already been accepted to pursue a pre-med degree. Her mother’s struggle with illness has inspired Jessica to pursue a degree in anesthesiology or general practice.

In addition to the scholarships awarded to Eric and Jessica, scholarships were also awarded to Aaron Mejia from Lopez High School in Brownsville, Texas, and Gabriela Romero from San Benito High School in San Benito, Texas, as the Exemplary Migrant Students who received the highest ranking from the scholarship selection committee. Sebastian Nieto from Edinburg High School in Edinburg, Texas, also received a scholarship as the recipient of the Migrant Program’s Creative Award. All five scholarships were provided by a gift from ExxonMobil, which has provided annual scholarships to the program since 2002.

Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 47 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs.

Since it began more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 25,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements.

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Tags: students of the year, migrant student program, migrant student graduation enhancement program, migrant, k-16 education center, jessica reyna, impact, eric guajardo, 25th anniversary,