Cigarroa High School student awarded prestigious Gates Scholarship

Juan Manuel Lara, II, a student at the Dr. Leonides G. Cigarroa High School and Sabas Perez Early College High School, was selected for the prestigious Gates Scholars Class of 2023. Lara was one among 750 outstanding students selected from a pool of over 51,000 applicants from across the nation for this prestigious, nationally recognized scholarship that will support higher education for the recipients.

The Gates Scholarship is known to be a highly selective scholarship for outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households. Gates scholarships are one of the fully-funded undergraduate scholarships which can be renewable for five years. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to exceptional student leaders, with the intent of helping them realize their maximum potential. 

During a seven month long process with multiple phases, Lara expresses he underestimated how well he did during the application process. “I did not expect to get so far in the process. I honestly expected to be knocked out during the semifinals! I did not see my essays making it far. They were sort of outside the box. As silly as it sounds, I mentioned media like Dragon Ball, Red Dead Redemption, Pokémon, and Transformers, and how their lessons would help shape who I am today,” he said. 

To those who know Lara, it came to no surprise he would accomplish something as grand as this. “My parents cried, my brother was not surprised, and my sister was happy to go eat somewhere,” he added. Lara shares the moment he realized he was among the chosen scholars felt very cinematic. “I was listening to ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra and when the last chorus hit, I read ‘Congratulations!’ I had a pretty big reaction, and made sure to call my friends right after. The most rewarding part is knowing I will be able to attend my dream school with no financial burden on my family.”

The Gates Scholars are selected based on their academic record, demonstrated leadership and a variety of other criteria, which includes essays, recommendations and interviews. The scholarship covers fees, housing, boarding, books and supplies, computer, transportation, personal expenses, loan fees, internship programs, study abroad, and health insurance.

Lara is an active CHS state winning robotics team “Xtreme Robotics,” founding member of the Water Boys, Regional Placed UIL One Act Play, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, Health Occupations Students of America, Senior Class, Principal’s Advisory Board, Sabas Perez ECHS Advisory Board, Junior Achievement, National Honor Society, and UIL Congress Speech and Debate. 

An accomplished student within the top 4% of his class and a dually enrolled student at Laredo College, he has earned a variety of academic recognition due to his determination. These include the Honor Roll, State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness Master Performance in U.S. History, English II, Algebra I, and English I, and recipient of the U.S Border Patrol Youth of the Month Award. Furthermore, Lara is certified in American Red Cross Lifeguarding Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)/Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and American Red Cross Lifeguarding Blended Learning.

Additionally, he volunteers his time within the community. This includes volunteering with Larga Vista Community Center, Imaginarium Financial Literacy Workshop, Mile One School Supply Drive, and Webb County Sheriff’s Office Share-A-Bear Drive.

As a member of The Gates Scholarship Inaugural Class of 2023, Lara will attend The Gates Scholarship Summer Institute (TGSSI). The mandatory four-day, overnight, conference is designed to welcome and empower the scholars, give them an opportunity to meet and connect with each other, and expand their professional networks by participating in workshops and social activities aimed at preparing and inspiring Scholars for their first year of college and beyond. The Gates Scholarship will cover all costs associated with the conference.

Campus mentors and administrators have expressed their happiness and pride as they’ve witnessed Lara grow and mature over the years. “Juan Manuel Lara is now part of this elite class of young leaders who represent high achievement in academics, service, leadership ability, and commitment. Juan Manuel’s hard work and perseverance has set him apart from other students across the nation” Sabas ECHS Director Dr. Rocio Lopez said.

“During his study, he demonstrated initiative and perseverance. Juan has proven that he possesses the intellect, initiative, and perseverance necessary to further his education. He is hardworking and dedicated; he works well with others and is a leader when needed. And now, he is a proud recipient of the Gates Scholarship, which I am sure will help him in his path to success,” CHS English Language Arts and Reading Teacher Gloria Salinas said.

In addition to funding, The Gates Scholarship will provide further support to Scholars, by engaging with them and their institutions in a variety of ways, to ensure they have access to the resources and services they need, from their first to last day of classes, through graduation and the transition to their chosen careers.

Lara will be attending University of Oregon this fall. He plans on exploring a career in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. “I hope I proved that even if you come from South Laredo, you can achieve the wildest things with a little commitment, creativity, and an unwavering heart,” Lara said.