HOUSTON, Texas–Representatives from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) visited ILTexas Windmill Lakes-Orem High School (WLOHS) on Monday, March 20, to surprise one of its seniors, Karen Garcia, with a $48,000 scholarship to their university. Garcia was sitting in the school auditorium with her fellow peers to listen to the morning announcements when the UT Austin representatives appeared on stage with her family to share the news.
Garcia, who will be the first person in her family to attend college, was awarded UT Austin’s Impact Scholarship which is given to students who have “demonstrated leadership, proven academic success, perseverance, commitment to their schools and communities, and the information provided in their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),” according to its website. Garcia is one of 60 students from across the state of Texas, and the only student from ILTexas, to receive the scholarship for its 2023 cohort.
Victor Nguyen, an admissions counselor at UT Austin who presented the scholarship check to Garcia, knew she would be a great candidate for the award.
“We love the fact that [Karen] was so committed and dedicated to her community, both here in school and outside of the classroom,” he said. “We saw the fact that she was a first gen [student] . . . so we wanted to be able to recognize those achievements [and] those obstacles that she had to overcome to be able to hopefully encourage her to come to UT Austin.”
UT Austin Representatives presenting Karen Garcia with Impact Scholarship check
Jasmine Campuzano, who serves as the Academic Success Program advisor for WLOHS, assisted Garcia throughout the college application process and saw that she had impressive qualities that made her stand out.
“[Karen] was managing all A's, taking like four AP classes, and she saw it like it wasn't a big deal,” she said. “To me, right there I was like, ‘Wow, this student is very intelligent . . . and doesn't even realize all the skills that she's acquired working at Subway as a manager while also managing all of her schoolwork and her family responsibilities as well.’”
Campuzano also discovered that Garcia was in the top six percent of her graduating class which automatically qualified her for acceptance into UT Austin.
“I told her these things and she was really excited because she didn't even know where she fell under,” she said. The two worked on a list of colleges Garcia was interested in attending and Campuzano assisted her with keeping track of application deadlines before waiting to hear back from the schools.
“Now we're at the point where one of her first choice schools is [the one] she got an amazing scholarship [to],” Campuzano said.
Garcia, who plans to pursue a career in the medical field as a physician's assistant, highlighted what the scholarship meant to her.
“I'm a first gen student, so that just means it's going to open a lot of doors for me, set the example for my family, and just live up to expectations I have for myself,” she said.
As university acceptances and scholarship announcements begin to come in, ILTexas will proudly share more stories of our 2023 graduating class and the exceptional higher education opportunities that they have earned. Explore ILTexas.org to learn more about how your student can have these same opportunities.