Two Española Valley High School students and Northern New Mexico College dual-enrollees won a scholarship that offers a full ride to an out-of-state school to further their education.

    The Davis Scholarship offers a full scholarship to first-generation college students to private universities outside of New Mexico, and includes a stipend for families to visit.

    Linda Guzman and Aldo Arevalo Jr. both were awarded the scholarship this year through the Upward Bound program, which works with the High School through the College.

    Tobe Bott-Lyons, the Upward Bound director at Northern New Mexico College, said Guzman was the first student to join the Upward Bound program. He said she is very committed and persevering, and a creative artist.

    Guzman said she saw a flyer for the program in her freshman year, and said it has been a big support for her.

    Arevalo said he knew he wanted to go to college, but did not know how to approach it. Bott-Lyons helped him get involved with the Upward Bound program and helped him step-by-step through the process.

    Bott-Lyons said the scholarship program provides a supportive network for students.

    The Upward Bound program at Northern is funded through a Department of Education grant, and is one of more than 1,000 in the country that works with low-income and first-generation potential college students for college readiness and preparation.

    The scholarship partners with five schools: University of Denver; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; University of Portland in Oregon; St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas; and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.

    Sam Ritter, the director of the Davis New Mexico Scholarship, wrote in an email that 51 students were selected out of 120 applicants.

    Guzman, a High School senior, already has enough credits from courses at Northern New Mexico College to be on pace to complete an associates degree in Liberal Arts in May 2021 through dual-credit courses, and has a college GPA of 4.12.

    Guzman was excited for the opportunity to get to go to college out of state

    In November, Guzman went with her sister to the post office and saw a letter from the program. She opened it and saw confetti, and thought it was just another advertisement mailing.

    Then she started reading, and saw the letter that said “Congratulations, you’ve been offered the New Mexico Davis Scholarship.”

    “Opening it, I wanted to cry, but I did not,” she said. “But then my sister started crying, so I started crying. Just getting it felt so surreal.”

    Guzman said she does not yet know what career she wants to pursue. She wants to get a good career so she can help her family, and is considering a pre-veterinary program as an option.

    Guzman has a wide variety of interests, she said, including art, biology and English, and possibly psychology, and is also thinking about writing a book. She’s excited to attend a school that lets her explore and try different classes before picking a major.

    She said she applied to the partner schools and was accepted to all five. She was leaning toward Portland or St. Edwards but also is considering Lawrence University, and liked the diversity she saw at all the schools.

    Guzman said classes are naturally harder virtually. One college class she’s enrolled in, Foundations of Liberal Arts, was entirely over Zoom virtual meetings. She said it was hard to hold discussions the way you would in person, where anyone can jump in to the conversation.

    Arevalo’s father, Aldo Arevalo Sr., has been a longtime presence on the Northern campus as a maintenance worker and is also taking classes in the College’s engineering program.

    Arevalo, a High School senior, said he currently has 28 credits from Northern, some of which he can use to transfer to whichever college he attends next year.

    Arevalo said he also was accepted to every college he applied to, which also included New York University and Arizona State University. He said his top choices are St. Edwards and Denver for their medicine programs.

    He said he originally wanted to go to New York, but thought he would have nothing to lose by applying to the Davis program. When he learned about how the program pays for almost everything, that part appealed to him - the scholarship pays for half of tuition and fees, and the college pays the other half.

    Davis wants to study medicine with a minor in business or political science. Afterwards he wants to go to medical school to become an emergency room doctor.

    “A lot of people here in Española, they don’t really have the resources,” Arevalo said. “I want to make a difference in our community.”

    Bott-Lyons said Arevalo Jr. is smart, driven and passionate about social justice and engaging the community, and is also very creative. He said he serves as a leader and a counselor to students in the Upward Bound program.

    Arevalo Jr. said he wants to open a mental health center to combat mental health and drug addiction problems in the region. He’s currently enrolled in a Participatory Action Research program where he is researching ways to start programs to improve mental health, and improve resources for people addicted to drugs.

    He plans to travel after college and eventually return to New Mexico.

    The pandemic ultimately pushed Arevalo Jr. toward a career in medicine, and said being in lockdown gave him time to think about his future.

    Arevalo Jr. also participated in wrestling, cross country and cheerleading in school until the pandemic shut down sports, and he decided not to compete his senior year and instead focus on his courses. Though he did say he was continuing to practice soccer and hopes to play at whichever college he attends.

    He is also spending time learning how to play guitar and piano, and learning Portuguese. But he said he struggled to find motivation for schoolwork during the pandemic without teachers and friends pushing him in person.

    College President Rick Bailey recognized both students during the State of the College address Dec. 9, and called them “superstars.”

    The scholarship recently announced an additional $60 million in funding over the next six years to support more students.

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