At a time when most 18-year-olds are figuring out where to go to college, Victor Reyes graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and is packing his bags to start a new job as an engineer at Boeing.
Reyes, a resident of McAllen, Texas, was one of the top graduates and one of the youngest graduates in history from The University of Texas-Pan American during its fall 2005 commencement.
"I'm really happy," Victor said. "I finally have everything I wanted."
Victor and Mario were hired as manufacturing engineers in Boeing's production engineering department in Renton, Wash. to work on commercial airplanes, including Boeing's newest aircraft - the 787 Dreamliner - a fuel-efficient airplane designed to carry passengers on routes of more than 8,000 nautical miles.
Victor's drive to succeed was evident when he graduated high school in 2004 with 59 hours of college credit - nearly half of the required courses for a college degree.
As a three-time state University Interscholastic League (UIL) math champion, Victor registered for concurrent enrollment courses at UT Pan American while a high school sophomore to challenge himself and improve his math skills during competition.
"I didn't want to be limited by what my high school had to offer, so I went beyond that to UTPA," he said.
UTPA's concurrent enrollment program allows high school students with high levels of academic achievement to enroll in college courses for college and possibly high school credit. McAllen Independent School District, where Victor graduated from, pays for up to half of students' tuition and fees if students maintain satisfactory academic progress.
Financial support for Victor and his family also came from scholarships. Upon graduating from high school he was eligible for UTPA's "University Scholars" designation which offers a four-year tuition and fees scholarship to students who complete 12 hours of concurrent enrollment courses with satisfactory progress.
They helped each other with classes in college and spent most of their time with one another, Victor said, describing the great relationship he has with his brother.
Mario, who graduated the same day as Victor, said he enjoyed taking the majority of his classes with his little brother. The 22-year-old said he encouraged Victor to enroll in the concurrent enrollment program because he had faith in his brother's academic ability.
"I saw what he could handle as a freshman in high school. I wanted for him to learn the most he could possibly learn at a higher level," Mario said.
In return, Victor is grateful to Mario for his guidance while attending college.
"He advised me about how to study and approach my classes. I'm really grateful for that and for his support. I don't think I'd be here right now if it wasn't for Mario," he said.
Victor also contributes his speedy path to college graduation to his parents Pedro and Norma Reyes, and younger brother Oscar who have supported him in all of his decisions. Pedro first immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico and learned English and the trade of a machinist.
Fighting back tears of relief that his sons would not have to encounter what he did, Pedro said that when he came to America he faced many obstacles including a language barrier. Even though Pedro and Norma never obtained college degrees, they always stressed the importance of a higher education to their sons.
"I got the idea to encourage them to study - and they did," Pedro said. "Now they can have a better life. I'm very proud of them."
He said his involvement in his sons' lives has helped them become responsible and mindful of the positive influence they can have on others.
"Life is about what you know and what you do," Pedro said. "When you do something good, it's good for everybody."
Victor said one of the things he most enjoys about engineering is his ability to use it to help society. "As an engineer you get to help people and develop products that make people happy, as well as for their safety and health," Victor said, expressing satisfaction for the quality of education he received at UTPA. "I like math and science and to use it for something like this is really rewarding."
Victor's advice to other students is simple. "Be focused on what you want to do in life, have patience, persevere and go for it."