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HISD pushing seniors to apply for scholarships more than ever as deadline approaches

Siblings Lizette and Jose Ortega credit full-tuition scholarships with helping them be the first in their family to attend a four-year college.

HOUSTON — Houston siblings Lizette and Jose Ortega share more than DNA. This brother and sister clearly value education.

"I’m at Wellesley College, it’s like 45 minutes outside of Boston, and I’m a physics major,” said Lizette.

“I want to be a veterinarian whenever I go to college," Jose said. "So I want to get my DVM license.”

Jose recently received a full-tuition scholarship to Carleton College in Minnesota while prestigious Wellesley, where Lizette is a sophomore, offered the same to her two years ago.

They're their family’s first generation to attend a four-year college.

"It was never a question if we were going to go to college or not, which I appreciate, cause we always had that like goal in mind,” Lizette said.

Both siblings credit Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School with preparing them well.

That's in addition to the district’s EMERGE program, which is specifically designed to help students like them.

"It basically helps under represented or people from low income communities find out and like discover the college process,” Jose said.

Carnegie Vanguard’s dean of instruction considers the Ortegas great examples for other students no matter their high schools.

"Don’t say they 'oh well, I can’t do that' or 'if I apply, I won’t get in,'” Melissa Matsu said. "Because I think that it’s really important that they take advantage of anything that’s even a possibility for them.”

Districts, including HISD, are currently pushing seniors, in particular, to get their applications in as scholarship deadlines approach.

And those scholarships may be more valuable than ever thanks to challenges created by COVID-19.

"You have to like be confident in yourself,” said Lizette when asked to share some of her advice to other students.