• May 26, 2022
 Socorro ISD Superintendent Awards Students $10,000 in Scholarships

Socorro ISD Superintendent Awards Students $10,000 in Scholarships

Socorro Independent School District Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D. surprised five Team SISD graduating seniors with scholarships for winning the Best in Education Prize essay contest.

The essay contest winners were Liliana A. Lira Magallanes from Americas High School; Cheryl Marina Gutierrez from Pebble Hills High School; Veronica Denise Alvarado from Socorro High School; Rafael Ortega from Montwood High School; and Madison L. Ochoa from Mission Early College High School.

The seniors were awarded $1,000 each to use toward tuition for the college or university they will attend in the fall of 2018.

A $5,000 scholarship also was awarded to a Socorro Middle School WIN Academy student for his outstanding performance in school, including living up to the philosophy of the WIN Academy – Work hard, have an “I can do it” attitude, and Never give up.

The essay contest celebrated the academic excellence in Team SISD, which was showcased nationwide when SISD Superintendent José Espinoza won the Escalante-Gradillas Best in Education Prize in October 2017. Dr. Espinoza and Team SISD earned the national recognition for doing more with less, overcoming obstacles, boosting student achievement levels, and raising the standard of excellence for SISD schools and the district overall.

“In our school district we treat and educate our students as if they were our own children,” Espinoza said. “We don’t want finances to be a reason for any of our students to not attend college and further their education.”

WIN Academy student Simon Ubanda, an eighth-grader at Socorro Middle School, was awarded a $5,000 scholarship, also to use for college or university costs when he graduates from high school.

The graduating seniors who won the contest wrote essays that addressed the question: How have you or your family done more with less?

“Reading all the stories was really touching,” Espinoza said. “Our students have overcome many struggles and challenges but they continue to persevere. No matter the challenge, they work hard to jump that hurdle, and I know they all have bright futures ahead of themselves.”

Liliana A. Lira Magallanes

Liliana A. Lira Magallanes from Americas High School

“There is never a good enough excuse to give up on yourself. You have to learn to live with what you have and make the most of it. I am a cancer survivor who emigrated with her family for a chance to live. It was not an easy journey, but with the help and support of each other we overcame every single obstacle that came our way.”

The scholarship will help Magallanes pursue a degree in the medical field and specialize in oncology. Her dream is to treat patients with cancer. She wants to help them fight and survive, like she did.

“I’m still in shock that I won…I didn’t think I would get it,” she said. “SISD is a wonderful district and ever since I moved over here I’ve had so many opportunities.”

Madison Ochoa

Madison L. Ochoa from Mission Early College High School

“My diagnosis of an eye disease at birth was not only a label but a life sentence that only grew worse during my first year of high school. However, it never stopped me from doing anything that I have ever wanted to try or accomplish, no matter the difficulty.”

Ochoa has done more with less despite being visually impaired. She is a proud Mission Early College High School graduate who loves to volunteer in her school and community.

“I managed to break the stereotype,” she said. “I earned an associate’s degree in December 2017. I’ve joined clubs, and I’m in dance. I am above the roof grateful for Dr. Espinoza! He is an amazing person looking after the welfare of students and their education, and we need more people like him.”

Rafael Ortega

Rafael Ortega from Montwood High School

“Many doors have been closed because of my national origin and status in this country. I have faced very real obstacles throughout my life, but I do not let them stop me. Instead, I look for opportunities. I did not let a simple lack of citizenship hinder my path to greatness.”

Ortega was accepted to the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M at College Station, and the University of Southern California. He plans to study aerospace engineering.

“I think it’s amazing that the district looks out for its students and makes sure we succeed at the high school level and in college,” Ortega said.

Cheryl Marina Gutierrez

Cheryl Marina Gutierrez from Pebble Hills High School

“I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua to help those in need. Though selling and getting rid of my belongings may mean having less for myself, it means there is an ample amount more for the children I am able to serve in Nicaragua. I chose new habits to bless the less fortunate. I am blessed twofold in the end.”

Gutierrez will major in communication at the University of Texas at Austin. She hopes to become a news anchor and sports journalist.

“I am really thankful that the district is giving me money and helping me pay for college,” she said. “It’s really hard for middle class students to get financial aid, and I know UT Austin is really expensive. This will help me a lot. It’s $1,000 I don’t have to pay out of my own pocket.”

 Veronica Denise Alvarado

Veronica Denise Alvarado from Socorro High School

“Nothing could lessen the value of what or who I am, nor what I had or was given. My family and I continue to struggle in certain aspects, doing more with less and we will prevail and conquer this life with the strongest foundation made up of heart, perseverance and commitment.”

Alvarado is the first in her family to leave town and go to college. The senior will study biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I am very surprised and happy that my story touched people’s hearts and gave me this opportunity,” she said. “This is a big deal for me.”

Simon Ubanda

Simon Ubanda from Socorro Middle School

Ubanda is a pioneer student of Team SISD’s WIN Academy which provides students who struggle in a traditional education setting more learning time and support.

“Being in WIN was difficult at first,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t belong there, and I didn’t want to be there; but, with time, I saw it was benefiting me and that it was for the best.”

Ubanda was awarded the $5,000 scholarship for being a model WIN Academy student who, Works hard, has an “I can do it’ attitude, and Never gives up.

“I’ve gone through a lot of things in the past, but I’m excited to see what I will do in the future. I want to stay in El Paso, go to UTEP and become a firefighter. I won’t let anyone down!”

Ubanda’s WIN teacher, Isabel Ramirez, was filled with joy when she heard the news.

“As a teacher, this is what you dream about for every student,” Ramirez said. “Simon was a struggling learner but the WIN program helped him fill in those gaps and now he is performing like everyone else. To see this happen to a student who has been through so much is exciting. We know he is going to make it. And now, he is able to see that everyone believes in him, not just us.”

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