Donna High School seniors Dezarae Ileen Olivo and Diana Ruby Sevillano are looking forward to going to the college of their choice without financial worries.

Olivo was afraid she would not be able to attend The University of Texas at Austin because of the cost. She said that her grandmother, who raised her and her two siblings, would have been forced to take out loans to help with expenses that local scholarships and grants did not cover. But, Olivo could not allow herself to bur-den her grandmother so she began to mentally prepare herself. She would have no choice but to stay in the Rio Grande Valley and attend the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Sevillano was facing a similar situation. With only her mother working, her parents would have had to borrow money so that she could attend the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Then, the seniors got some big news. The prestigious Dell Scholars Program announced the names of high school seniors from across the country who would be receiving a $20,000 scholarship and a laptop to help them with college expenses. Both Olivo and Sevillano were on the list.

“I received an email at midnight but I didn’t want to open it,” Sevillano said. “I was afraid to find out. So, the next morning, while on the bus on my way to school, I opened it and was surprised to find out that I had received the scholarship. I was very excited.”

Olivo’s experience was nerve-racking. “

“I tried to log into my account, but it wouldn’t let me,” she said. “I read that if you couldn’t log in, then you didn’t get awarded. So, I woke up my grandmother and we both started crying. I said to her, ‘I can’t go to UT anymore grandma. I have to stay here.’”

Olivo waited about an hour and checked in again. She was able to get in this time and was notified that she received the scholarship.

“I woke up my grandma again and told her the great news,” she said. “She broke out in tears again and told me that she was proud of me. She said she was glad that I was given this opportunity and that I had to thank my teacher for mentioning this scholarship to me because he’s one of the reasons why I got it.”

Both students credit their AVID teacher, Simon Sauceda, for making them aware of the Dell Scholars Pro-gram. He also helped them with the application process.

“I am very grateful to have him as a teacher,” Olivo said. “He’s one of my teachers who’s pushed me a lot. He probably doesn’t think that but he really helped me and my future. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have known about this scholarship opportunity.”

“Being in the AVID program prepares you to be successful in college,” Sevillano said. “I know students who are not taking the program and they’re very behind with everything like applying for financial aid and scholarships and taking the required Texas Success Initiative Assessment, better known as the TSI test. This program is so beneficial. My teacher has been a strong supporter. He has helped me so much in getting ready for college.”

Olivo plans to pursue a criminal justice degree and seek a career as a social worker with Child Protective Services. Sevillano is thinking about studying sociology.