“I’m kind of the odd one out,” she says.
While one of her sisters showed an interest in cosmetology, another excelled in sports, and a third moved to Las Vegas, Valdez developed an early love for reading and seeking good grades.
They paid off. The junior at A.C. Jones High School—she is the class president and a straight-A student—is this year’s Barnhart scholar—worth $30,000 in four equal payments.
She was named the winner last Friday in a frigid ceremony in the high school’s auditorium, where the heating system had failed on a 36-degree, misty morning.
She plans to use the scholarship funds to major in biology at the University of Texas at Austin in preparation of becoming a pediatrician.
She will minor in chemistry or history, she says.
As backup plans, she also is going to apply for admission at Baylor, New York University and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Earlier this year, Valdez was in her Algebra II class when the Joe Barnhart Scholarship office at the high school notified her she was eligible to apply for its annual scholarship.
“I didn’t hesitate.” She asked to be excused, went straight to the Barnhart office and signed up.
She was not the first in line.
“I had to sign my name on a piece of paper that said I wanted to apply,” she remembers.
Part of the process includes supplying both her high school and college resumes—she has taken a number of advanced courses at Coastal Bend College—and writing an essay explaining her career goals and how, in the future, she will utilize skills she has developed in high school.
Those skills include her thespian activities.
“I learned important social skills there,” she says, “such as confidence, responsibility and leadership.”
Valdez was one of four finalists this year vying for the scholarship—which is presented in a student’s junior year because of the time involved in applying for admission to colleges and universities.
“Basically,” Valdez says, “the foundation is betting on you to be successful.”
Other finalists were Lindsey Lawson, Emily Lehmberg and Sydnie Maguire.
Whether at Austin, Waco, New York or Los Angeles, Valdez is confident she will excel. So are her parents, Marco Valdez and Sandra Hernandez.
The applause that followed Alicia being named the winner is evidence of the reaction from most of her school friends.
“However,” she admits, “when I help the soccer team the coach now says, ‘Nice of you to show up, your highness,’ or “How’s the 30,000-dollar girl?”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.