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Adrianna Garza will be heading to Rice University on a full scholarship in the fall.
Garza, the valedictorian of the Palmview High School Class of 2020, recently received word that she had been selected to receive a Gates Foundation Scholarship. A “last-dollar” scholarship, it will cover any fees required by her school of choice as well as any other living arrangements and supplies necessary to complete her undergraduate degree.
Over 36,000 students across the nation applied for the Gates Foundation Scholarship. Garza is one of 300 students to earn the financial assistance, and she intends to major in biology.
Garza plans to get on a pre-med track in order to go to medical school and become a physician.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” Garza said. “After medical school I hope to come back to the Valley and start my own family doctor’s practice.”
Garza lives in Palmview, and sees a need for more local medical practices throughout the area.
“My family always has to go out a little farther into Mission,” Garza said.
Though she had her heart set on Rice University, which is located in Houston, Garza said she had never actually thought that she would be accepted.
“I always wanted to stay in Texas, and Houston is one of [my family’s] favorite cities because of the sports teams in the area,” Garza said. “My family is a big fan of the Astros and the Texans.”
When she found out she had been accepted into Rice, which has a high rate of graduates who are accepted into medical school, she was elated.
“I ran around the house like crazy,” Garza recalled. “I was excited. It was always just the perfect school for me – perfect size, perfect environment.”
Garza is most looking forward to a new sense of independence as a college student. She noted that at this point, she is incredibly eager, but anticipates being more nervous for the experience once she moves.
“The other day I got some towels, and I was so excited because I thought, ‘those are going to be my towels,’” Garza said. “For the first time in my life.”
The application process for the Gates Foundation Scholarship started in September 2019. Garza said they first had to fill out a simple questionnaire with her GPA and test scores.
By November, she found out she was a semi-finalist, which narrowed down the applicant pool to 2,000. At that point, she had to write four essays and turn them in by January before they chose the 600 finalists.
“That’s when we were interviewed,” Garza said. “We were chosen on April 20 as Gates Scholarship winners.”
Prior to being awarded a Gates Scholarship, Garza had planned to attend Texas A&M University even if she had been accepted into Rice, because A&M had offered her a full ride scholarship.
“I love that school also, but Rice was always my dream,” Garza said. “So once I got the Gates Scholarship, I had nothing to worry about because I had gotten all the financial support I needed.”
Garza is ready to take her next step to becoming a doctor. Though she realizes it will take eight more years of school, she knows it will be worth it in the end.
As a student at Palmview High School, Garza focused on academics – but also found her passion in mariachi as she played the trumpet. In her senior year, she was elected to be a group representative in the organization.
“That was my most favorite thing,” Garza said. “I always had [mariachi] ninth period, at the end of the day, and after a long day of work and classes, I’d go to mariachi and that would make everything better.”
Garza added that participating in mariachi helped her in her academic career.
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but last year our third-ranking student was also in mariachi,” Garza said. “One of my friends who is a junior is currently ranked first [in his class] – I feel like it’s helpful in some way.”
In addition to mariachi, Garza participated in U.I.L. academic competitions in mathematics.
“I always took the most rigorous math courses at school,” Garza said. “I feel like U.I.L. helped me with that, it helped with my grades.”
Like every other senior, Garza missed the last few months of her senior semester. For mariachi, their last concert would have been Mother’s Day, and they had to miss it.
“We also missed our state and regional meets for U.I.L.,” Garza said. “My brother graduated two years ago, and when he graduated he got a Top Ten Percent Breakfast and a Top 25 Banquet, and all these things that we weren’t able to have. I always looked forward to it.”
She spent the last couple of weeks taking AP tests online, a new process that was not what anyone expected. Garza expressed gratitude that La Joya ISD was continuing to have in-person graduations, because many other districts were missing out on that opportunity.
Garza attributed her success to her teachers and counselors, like her mariachi directors, who she calls her number one supporters. Her U.I.L. math coach Alicia Alfonso taught her in several subjects. Her English teacher, Mara Castillo, helped Garza through the process of applying for the Gates Foundation Scholarship.
“I’ve talked to friends and cousins from other schools, and they don’t have the same support that I’ve always had,” Garza said. “All those people have helped in some way.”
She will most miss the relationships and support fostered in mariachi.
“It’s like I’m leaving a whole family behind,” Garza said. “That’s what I’ll miss the most, playing music with the people I love.”
For students heading toward their future graduations, Garza had some advice.
“Take advantage of the time you have there,” Garza said. “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”