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First Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Graduate, Exemplify Program Success

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JUNE 10, 2014 – Six participants in the Spring Commencement ceremony at The University of Texas at Brownsville on Saturday, May 10 had the distinction of being the first Greater Texas Foundation Scholars to graduate from UTB.

Maria Cisneros, Sonia Figueredo, Melissa Millan, Ana Saldaña, Sergio Vasquez and Eduardo Zavala are members of the inaugural GTF Scholars cohort that entered UTB as juniors in fall 2012.

The GTF Scholars Program was created in 2012 to increase the number of Texas early college high school graduates who successfully transition to a four-year university and complete a baccalaureate degree in two years. UTB is one of only four universities in the state selected to participate.

Having achieved at least 60 hours of college credits from their high schools, the students entered UTB as third-year university students. Five graduated from Brownsville Early College High School, and Cisneros graduated from Early College High School in Harlingen.

“We are extremely proud to have been part of these students’ journeys,” said Dr. Wynn Rosser, President and CEO, Greater Texas Foundation. “We are confident they will all go on to do great things – and for those who are first generation graduates, their families will also forever be changed because of their hard work, dedication and commitment to earning a degree.”

Joined by Dr. Juliet V. García, the Greater Texas Foundation Scholars are: (seated, left to right) Melissa Millan, Maria Cisneros, Ana Saldaña and Sonia Figueredo; (standing, left to right) Sergio Vasquez and Eduardo Zavala.Joined by Dr. Juliet V. García, the Greater Texas Foundation Scholars are: (seated, left to right) Melissa Millan, Maria Cisneros, Ana Saldaña and Sonia Figueredo; (standing, left to right) Sergio Vasquez and Eduardo Zavala.

Figueredo, who received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, plans to continue her education at The University of Texas Pan American to obtain her master’s degree in criminal justice. She hopes to work with juveniles in the corrections field.

“I want to work with teens that have gotten into trouble,” said 20-year-old Figueredo. “It will be challenging; I know it will not be an easy job. I want to try to make a difference in their lives, to have a positive influence on them, to encourage them to make smart choices and finish school and get focused in the right direction.”

Receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Government, 20-year-old Saldaña will seek a job where she can use her new degree, and she plans to study for the law school entrance exam, the LSAT. 

“I always thought school was just about going to classes and passing exams, but it is so much more,” Saldaña said. “My professors were very passionate about their teaching, and took time to get to know you on a personal basis; I met so many people and learned even more. I also got to apply my knowledge during service learning projects, and campus life was fun, too.” 

Millan, who celebrated her 20th birthday on graduation day, received her Bachelor of Arts in English. She said being a history and composition tutor for Learning Enrichment was a beneficial experience for her, keeping her sharp while helping fellow students in their classes.

“I think the main obstacle that I faced was organizing my time wisely,” said Millan.

Nineteen-year-old Sergio Vasquez, who worked 30-35 hours a week in the child support division at the Cameron County Clerk’s Office while being a full-time student, agreed that time management was a major challenge.

Vasquez’ Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice will serve him well on his career path; he will apply to graduate school at Sam Houston State University for the spring 2015 term. After completing his master’s degree in criminal justice and criminology, he hopes his next step will be with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Maria Cisneros, 19 years old, received her Bachelor of Business Administration  and plans to pursue a career in marketing.

“I am excited to see this part of my life come to a conclusion,” Cisneros said. “I know I learned a lot, and I am thankful to everyone who had anything to do with helping me reach this goal.”

Twenty-year-old Zavala, who received his Bachelor of Arts in Government, also expressed his appreciation.

“I am grateful to everyone at UTB – professors and all the staff who help the students in so many ways. Gracias a todos! ” Zavala said.

The third cohort of GTF Scholars begins this fall. According to Michael Aldape, GTF Program Coordinator for UTB, the program has widened in the Rio Grande Valley to include early college high school students from as far away as La Joya.

“UTB is very fortunate to have been selected to participate in the GTF Scholars program, and we hope to have a long and successful collaboration with Greater Texas Foundation,” Aldape said.

More information can be found online at:
Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Program
Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Get a Head Start on their Careers
Greater Texas Foundation Scholarship Announcement (video)​

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