WINCHESTER — The word “orgulloso,” which means “proud” in Spanish, was repeated many times by parents, school staff and administrators during a small ceremony on Tuesday night where two deserving Latino seniors at Handley High School learned they will receive scholarships from the Winchester Education Foundation upon graduation next year.
Jemima Jose-Alejandro and Ulises Morales-Mendoza, both 17, each will receive a $500 scholarship to pursue college or a skilled trade career.
The foundation announced the creation of the annual $1,000 scholarship in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Sept. 15 and ends today. The money for this year’s scholarship was made possible by an anonymous donor.
Handley Principal Shahrazad “Sherry” Kablan noted at the beginning of the ceremony that 35% of the school’s students are Latino.
“As an immigrant myself, I have great appreciation for you, your family and your students,” Kablan told the parents of Jemima and Ulises.
The families of both students came to the United States from Mexico more than 20 years agog.
“It’s very important for me as a principal to remember that we don’t only celebrate our Latin heritage during one month,” Kablan said. “It should be something we celebrate all the time because Latin history is a Latin history itself but at the same time it’s an American history.”
Ulises hopes to pursue a career that involves working with his hands, possibly a mechanic. On top of going to school, Ulises has a job to help support his brother and father.
“It means a lot to me to represent the Hispanic culture,” Ulises said. “I hope this can encourage other Hispanic people to keep on pushing and working hard.”
Jemima wants to become a teacher. She has been an active member of the Latinos Unidos club at Handley.
“Since I’m Hispanic and my parents are immigrants, I want to show each Hispanic student that by working hard, they can get something good out of it,” Jemima said, adding that working hard is a value instilled in her by her parents.
“I feel proud,” said Martin Morales, Ulises’ father, because Ulises is a good son who works hard and goes to school. “He does things right.”
Rosa Alejandro, Jemima’s mother, was equally proud of her daughter’s scholarship. She said it hasn’t been easy raising a child as an immigrant parent.
“First of all I thank God and I thank the teachers and anyone that has helped our daughter,” she said.
Winchester Education Foundation President Madelyn Rodriguez shared a written message with the students and their families, noting that this is the first time Latino students in the school division have been provided such an honor.
“This is only a few of the firsts for our community. The goal is to multiply these scholarships so that many more can be awarded,” Rodriguez said. “I’m honored to be a part of this moment because I am a first generation college graduate and I want to encourage and support the students in our community so that they can reach bigger goals!”