National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars
Seve Lopez, Ileen Montemayor and Jose Luis Reyna of San Benito’s class of 2017 were named National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars.
Students approaching the last months of their high school years tend to be reflective, if not a bit nostalgic, in looking back at 12-plus years of public schooling.
Ileen Montemayor and Jose Luis Reyna are two of those students. They are seniors at San Benito High School and, like many of their classmates, they grew up together, knowing each other since grade school. They finish each other’s sentences and know the attributes that have driven them to academic excellence.
“He’s so naturally smart,” Montemayor says of her classmate. “In middle school, his backpack would be full of the giant textbooks he was reading.”
Looking at his classmate at the high school library, Reyna returns the compliment, saying Montemayor’s intensive study habits have inspired him to work harder. Sitting nearby, their friend, Seve Lopez, a history buff and football player, is quick with opinions and analysis of the Civil War and his current subject of great interest – the Vietnam War.
What binds the three students together aside from being classmates of San Benito’s class of 2017 is that each was named a National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar. Out of more than 250,000 then-juniors nationally, the three San Benito students scored among the top 5,000 on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during the 2015-16 school year.
The three students take the designation of being top Hispanic scholars in stride, saying any of their classmates can do the same with effort and focus. Modesty aside, it is clear the intellectual curiosity and drive to succeed each of these students possesses is outside of academic norms.
They are looking ahead as they reflect on their years of growing up in their tight-knit community. Reyna has enlisted in the U.S. Navy and will study nuclear engineering. Montemayor excels in mathematics but is interested in law and is weighing her options among San Antonio and Austin-area universities. Lopez plans to attend college closer to home and dreams of working for the FBI, but isn’t sure where his intellectual pursuits will take him.
They each cite their parents as their primary role models and say the priority in their respective households to achieve academically acted as primary drivers in their successes. The students are thoughtful, articulate and opinionated.
Lopez is no fan of standardized testing, saying it leads to instructors teaching to tests and not intellectually challenging students. Reyna said he and his two classmates learned how “to take advantage of the system” of academic tracking and worked it to their advantage. Montemayor said she valued community service over extracurricular activities like athletics and band that take too much time away from studying.
“We’ve put in a lot of effort,” Montemayor said of herself and her two classmates. “We’ve cheered each other on. We’re happy for each other.”
By Ricardo Cavazos