PHARR – Two Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD high school students received awards for their focus in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation during a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 10 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School Senior Jessica Zamarripa and PSJA Memorial Early College High School Senior Deyanira Verdeja were two of 18 recipients of the 2015 Rio Grande Valley Regional Hispanic Heritage Youth Award.
For the first time in 17 years, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation expanded its program to include the South Texas region. The Youth Awards honor Latino high school seniors who excel in the classroom and focus in various categories including: Business & Entrepreneurship; Community Service; Education; Engineering & Mathematics; Healthcare; Innovation & Technology and Sports & Fitness.
Both students are happy to be selected for this honor and be able to represent minorities in STEM industries. Historically, Hispanics, especially women, represent a small percentage of professionals pursuing STEM fields, but the support for these groups to pursue degrees in STEM is increasing.
Zamarripa, who attends a STEM focused early college high school, is planning to graduate with an Associate Degree in Mathematics from South Texas College next May. She has recently been accepted into the Aerospace Engineering Program at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. The Hispanic Heritage Foundation awarded her with a $3,000 educational grant to continue her studies.
Like Zamarripa, Verdeja will also be graduating with an Associate Degree prior to her high school graduation. She will be receiving a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and plans to major in Biology and Kinesiology after graduation. She was awarded the Silver Award in the Healthcare category for her plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Verdeja of the $1,500 grant she received for her college education. “I want to become a physical therapist.”
“I feel the early college program has helped me prepare for what is coming,” said Zamarripa. "Since I was given an opportunity to take college classes, I am more prepared and ready to go to college now."