Macarena Astorga is a cross country runner at Ryan High School, a member of her school’s orchestra and the National Honor Society, participant in the Mujeres con Sueños leadership program and part of the University of North Texas Upward Bound Program. She holds a 4.875 grade-point average.
On Saturday, Astorga was one of 22 students selected to receive awards from Denton’s Council No. 4366 of the League of United Latin American Citizens during the organization’s 32nd annual scholarship banquet at Denton Country Club.
“When I found out, I said to myself that I was so lucky to have this scholarship,” Astorga said about the $1,500 award. “I feel really blessed.”
Born in Dallas, Astorga, 18, will be the first member of her family to go to college. She plans to attend Texas Woman’s University in the fall and major in biology.
Isabella Piña-Hinojosa, this year’s scholarship chairwoman, said 150 students applied for the scholarships. The chapter granted a total of $136,227.48 in scholarships, with funds gathered from local donors, educational institutions, businesses and organizations.
Dario Torres and his wife, Rosy Torres, said they were excited for their daughter, Sandra Torres, who received the LULAC/Harris Scholarship in the amount of $1,500.
Torres, 18, a student at Guyer High School, said she wants to be a nurse.
“After I finish my undergraduate [degree], hopefully I can go to graduate school,” she said. “I am glad that I have the scholarship. The funds are going to help me a lot.”
Torres has two siblings, an 11-year-old sister and a 9-year-old brother.
“I have to do good,” she said, “because they are looking up to you.”
This year’s guest speaker, Collin County teen court coordinator Julie Monge, thanked the scholarship recipients for their hard work and reminded them to thank their parents.
“Don’t forget where you come from and don’t forget about la familia [the family]; that is very important,” she said. “My parents were immigrants when they got here, and they had hard work. My dad works at a farm, and he has been there for 37 years. He loves his job and he is very loyal to it. I will never forget that is where I grew up.”
Monge is a first-generation Latina. She is working toward a master’s degree at Southern Methodist University.
Monge said that 82 percent of her court cases are truancy cases and close to 58 percent of them are students with Latino backgrounds.
“I deal with at-risk youth. ... I never see them graduate high school,” she said. “I would love to have a room full of students like this, who are going to college.”
Anita Martínez-Strickland, Denton LULAC president, said that by finishing high school and going to college, the students will begin a new phase in their lives.
“Do not slow down. If you trip and fall, get up,” she told the students, reminding them that four years of college could present hurdles.
“Make it work for you,” she said. “Whether you have to work part time and go to school, make it work for you.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.
2013 LULAC SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
National LULAC scholarships winners
Macarena Astorga, Ryan High School, $1,500
Cristal Benitez-López, Denton High School, $1,125
Lyzandra Cedeno, Ryan, $800
Robert T. Champion, Guyer High School, $1,500
Brandon Dominguez, Guyer, $1,500
Selina Fonseca, Ryan, $1,125
Raelyan Garcia, Ryan, $500
Luis Guevara, Denton, $1,067
Taylor Gutierrez, Ryan, $800
Tatiana Hernández, Guyer, $709.24
Benjamín Jiménez, Ryan, $709.24
Theresa C. Mata, Ryan, $800
Bruno Ponce, Ryan, $800
Ariana Rodríguez, Denton, $1,125
Priscilla Sánchez, Denton, $1,067
Sandra Torres, Guyer, $1,500
LULAC/NCTC scholarship recipients
Maira Carlos, Denton, $600
Melinda Peña, Denton, $600
LULAC/UNT scholarship recipients
Cristal Benitez-Lopez, Denton, $48,000
Luis Guevara, Denton, $20,000
Raelyan Garcia, Ryan, $24,000
LULAC/TWU scholarship recipients
Jocelyn Almaraz, Ryan, $4,800
Stephanie Cadar, Ryan, $4,800
Saul Diaz, Denton, $12,000
Jessica Soberanes, Denton, $4,800
SOURCE: Denton LULAC Council #4366