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New England Bound: Three from Los Fresnos gain admission to Ivy League schools

May 8, 2019

Los Fresnos High School celebrated an unusual distinction on Tuesday when it recognized three members of the Class of 2019 for being admitted to Ivy League schools.

Usually, one student gaining admission to an Ivy League school is cause for celebration at a high school, and Los Fresnos has had that distinction before. But three?

The eight schools on the East Coast that comprise the Ivy League athletic conference are generally considered the most prestigious academically of all universities in the United States. Admission is highly selective.

Enrique “Kike” Valencia, the LFHS salutatorian, will attend Yale University; Juan Pablo “JP” Alvarado, the No. 3 ranked student, will attend Princeton, and Jose Carlos, the No. 6, will attend Columbia.

“You do realize that the work starts now,” Los Fresnos Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar joked at a recognition ceremony after shaking their hands as the three sat at a table behind banners from Yale, Princeton and Columbia.

Principal Justin Stumbaugh also congratulated the standout students, saying he looked forward to them coming back to visit and helping “keep the pipeline open” for Los Fresnos students attending Ivy League schools.

Carlos is the first in his family to attend college. Neither of his parents Maribel Contreras and Jose Carlos went past middle school, nor do they speak English.

“Seeing my parents overcome all sorts of challenges to guarantee that I have an education is really inspiring and has been the main reason I work so hard academically,” he said in a spotlight of Top 10 students posted on the LFHS website. “I do this for my family, and I want to show my siblings that they can do this as well.”

He said growing up in the Rio Grande Valley will actually be a help once he gets to Columbia, which is in Upper Manhattan in New York City.

“People tend to downgrade the Valley a lot,” he said after the ceremony. “People don’t realize what a special place this is. Even if someone doesn’t know you they will help you out.”

He is undecided about future plans but said he wants to do something that will do the most good for the most people. He’s leaning toward earning his undergraduate degree in history and then going to law school.

Valencia said he was accepted at other schools but chose Yale after attending Bulldog Day on campus.

“They’re really humble about what they do,” he said of the people he met on Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. “They’re a bunch of friendly over-achievers and collaborators. I felt welcome.”

Valencia credited his mother Gladys Galarza for all her sacrifices, as well as his aunts and uncles for inspiring him to excel in school

He plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Alvarado was accepted at Princeton, Harvard, Rice and Yale. He, too, said his campus visit made a difference and that he felt a strong sense of the Latino community at Princeton, where he will attend to earn his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering.

He said his parents Juan Pablo and Amy Alvarado, family and friends all had an impact on him and the success he’s had at school.

He described Princeton, set at the edge of a forest in Princeton, New Jersey, as “breathtaking, one of the prettiest campuses” in the country.

“There’s just so many opportunities for me out there, and if I get bored it’s just a 20 minute train ride from New York City,” he said.

All three students have attended Los Fresnos schools since elementary school, although Alvarado transferred in as a fourth-grader.

Stumbaugh, at the beginning of the ceremony, called them “three of the most humble, hardest-working students” he had ever met.


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