University leader encourages students to go to college
By Roxanne Lerma Casares, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/30/2013
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Veronica Gonzales urged local students to dream big. The vice president for the Division of University Advancement at The University of Texas-Pan American said like her, their reality will outshine even their own expectations.

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UTPA Vice President for University Advancement Veronica Gonzales speaks to high school students and their parents during the Youth of the Year ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Border Patrol April 17.

“When I was your age, I never in a million years thought I would be where I am today. That wasn’t in my plans, and it wasn’t even in my dreams,” Gonzales said.

The UTPA leader shared her success story to inspire some of the top Rio Grande Valley high school students April 17 when she served as the keynote speaker for the Youth of the Year ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Gonzales, an attorney who previously served as the State Representative for District 41 from 2004-2012, encouraged the teenagers to pursue a higher education.

“I grew up in a family where there was a lot of love and not a lot of money. My parents did not go to college but they always stressed to me how important it was to get a college education,” she said. “It’s so important for you to be independent. You can accomplish anything you want.”

Kivani Sanchez of Veterans Memorial High School in Mission, Yesenia Delgado of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo North High School, and Felicia Juarez of Weslaco East High School all received Border Patrol’s Youth of the Year award, including a $1,500 scholarship.

The students, who all had remarkable résumés, previously had been named Head of the Class, an award by Border Patrol that recognizes seniors in 60 Valley high schools. Those students who demonstrated exemplary character and determination to succeed were highlighted for their efforts in monthly ceremonies held throughout the Valley.

Gonzales, a first-generation college graduate, praised the students for their achievements. She also recognized the teachers, counselors and parents who support them.

“They are your greatest supporters, your mentors, your advocates and your role models. Our counselors and teachers do so much to prepare our kids for school,” she said.

This is the 17th year the agency has recognized the Head of Class winners, and the third year students have received the Youth of the Year scholarships. About 35 Head of the Class recipients, several who plan to attend UTPA after graduation, attended the luncheon at the Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg.