Six top performing Dallas ISD seniors receive $20,000 scholarships

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Six Dallas ISD students will be awarded and join the 38 previous recipients of the 2017 Deloitte/NTPGA Fairway to Success Scholarships, according to Deloitte LLP, The Northern Texas PGA and United Way. The recipients, Maritza Aguilar, Craig Jackson, Keja Johnson, Adriana Lopez, Tahania Sierra and Stephanie Vargas, who will each received a $20,000 scholarship towards his or her continuing education, were honored at a breakfast on May 1 at Lakewood Country Club.

Established in 2007, the Fairway to Success Program annually awards scholarships to students based on academic performance, extracurricular activities, community involvement and financial need. Fairway to Success is helping to impact and change the lives of young people in our community.

The program is conducted at three Dallas Independent School District high schools – W.W. Samuell, Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln high schools – and includes exposing students to golf and the life lessons of discipline, honor and integrity that are central to the game. These schools were originally selected by Dallas ISD for their level of need, lack of outside resources and by virtue of concurrent participation in the Destination: Graduation program offered through United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

During 2016-2017, the five-week after school golf program, conducted in the fall and spring, boasted high participation, with 137 Dallas ISD high school students learning the basics of golf from PGA golf professionals. By completing the program, students earned the right to participate in a field trip to a local golf course, and graduating seniors who qualified by participating in the program had the opportunity to apply for a college scholarship.

Since its inception, the program has awarded $880,000 to 44 Dallas ISD students through the individual contributions of Deloitte partners and professionals in North Texas who have raised more than $1.7 million to date to an educational endowment.

“For many of the students we work with through the Fairway to Success program, golf serves as a means to introduce and help instill some valuable life lessons,” said Jason Downing, North Texas managing partner and Central region market leader at Deloitte. “By learning the basics of the game from NTPGA professionals and being paired with a Deloitte mentor, these talented young people are receiving guidance and learning new skills that we hope will last for a lifetime.”

Fairway to Success also includes a mentorship program designed to support scholarship recipients throughout their college careers. Recipients interact with Deloitte mentors who share their insights gained from working in a professional services environment. Deloitte mentors also help students explore potential career opportunities in the business and STEM-focused fields of study. Finally, the NTPGA employs two Fairway to Success recipients as interns each summer. It also furthers the intern’s golf education and exposure that began on their high school campuses through Fairway to Success.

“As the program has developed, they have been adding components. One of the main components is the mentor program. The kids will be assigned a mentor who will guide them, not just getting into college, but all the way through. So, we have added a layer of support that the kids did not have beforehand. It’s memorable, it’s positive, it’s supportive, and without these mentors in the kids’ lives some of them may not of been successful,” said Coach Matthew Summers, teacher and golf coach at Thomas Jefferson High School.

More information about the 2017 scholarship recipients is listed below:

Maritza Aguilar – W.W. Samuell High School

With a 3.8 GPA, Maritza Aguilar is ranked seventh in her graduating class of 339 students. She has a part of W.W. Samuell’s Early College Program, through which she has already earned 62 college credit hours and will graduate in June with her associate’s degree from Eastfield College. Last summer, she worked at the Dallas World Aquarium as an ambassador and plans to do so again in summer 2017. Aguilar is the secretary of student council at W.W. Samuell and a four-year member of the Book Club. Education is very important to her, and for that reason, she aspires to become a history teacher and return to Dallas ISD to give back to her community. In the future, she says she wants her children to know it is a goal to go to college, not just an option. Aguilar will attend the University of North Texas in the fall.

Craig Jackson – Lincoln High School

College was never an option for Craig Jackson growing up, but his goal was to break the chain in order to be a positive role model for his younger siblings. Ranked seventh in his graduating class, Jackson is always working towards his future goals. He participated in the Ernst & Young college prep program and has accrued over 80 hours of community service in high school through the Turner 12, a college prep and community service group that he has participated in since sixth grade. Coach Carter, the executive director of the Turner 12, has been a true mentor and inspiration to Jackson throughout many of life’s struggles he experienced growing up. Despite these obstacles, Jackson will attend the University of North Texas this fall where he will be enrolled in a five-year accounting program working towards both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. His dream job is to one day work for Deloitte.

Keja Johnson – Lincoln High School

Keja Johnson is the salutatorian of her graduating class at Lincoln High School. She has also been involved with the Girl Scouts organization since she was just a cadet at 9 years old. She now serves as a Girl Scouts ambassador, doing various service projects for the organization. Johnson is very goal-oriented and truly believes that failure is not an option. Because of this forward-thinking mindset, she held two internship positions during her time in high school: one with VNA Meals on Wheels and another at KERA-TV / KXT 91.7. It is Johnson’s ultimate goal to have her own talk show, focusing on empowering women, as she aspires to be just like Oprah Winfrey. In the fall, she will attend Texas Christian University, where she plans to major in mass communications with a double minor in Spanish and deaf habilitation.

Adriana Lopez – Thomas Jefferson High School

Adriana Lopez understands that hard work gets you where you want to go. This young woman maintained a 3.8 GPA while also balancing the responsibilities of being the drum major in her high school band, the senior captain for the girls golf team, a load of AP classes and working a 25 hour-per-week job at Chick-fil-A. She is also involved with her high school theatre and is an active member of the Patriot Ambassadors, a leadership organization that mentors incoming freshmen at Thomas Jefferson. This first-generation college student applied, and was accepted to, 12 different universities. She ultimately decided to enroll at the University of Texas at Dallas this fall, where she will study speech pathology with the ultimate goal of helping people with special needs.

Tahania Sierra – Thomas Jefferson High School

Not many little girls grow up dreaming to be an app developer or computer analyst, but Tahania Sierra wants to show her younger sister that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Sierra discovered her passion for mathematics and computers at a young age, more interested in finding out how computer games worked than actually playing the games themselves. After watching countless tutorial videos and doing lots of research, she eventually taught herself how to code. Sierra forwards her enthusiasm for math to others by tutoring middle school students in the subject in her spare time. During high school, she also participated in National Honor Society as the group’s secretary and was an active member of the Art Club, all while balancing AP courses and dual-credit classes through Brookhaven Community College. Sierra will be studying computer science at University Texas at Dallas starting this fall and looks forward utilizing to the relationship UTD has with Texas Instruments.

Stephanie Vargas – Thomas Jefferson High School

As a first-generation high school graduate, Stephanie Vargas had to forge her own unique path to success. Growing up, she was expected to help out around the house more than most kids her age, taking care of her younger brother Bryan, who has down syndrome, while her parents were at work. Throughout high school, Vargas committed herself to becoming a positive role model for her younger brother, niece and nephew. In May, she will graduate in the top 10 percent of her class from Thomas Jefferson. While in high school, she was the captain of the dance drill team and member of the varsity dance ensemble, while also remaining very involved as a Patriot ambassador. This fall, Vargas will enroll at Texas A&M University and plans to study wildlife and fisheries management with the goal of opening her own animal rescue ranch.

About the Northern Texas PGA Junior Golf Foundation

The Northern Texas PGA Junior Golf Foundation is committed to introducing, promoting and growing the game of golf to a diverse group of kids in North Texas and instilling in them the positive, character developing traits for which the game is so well known. Each year, close to 10,000 children and their families are impacted by the game that lasts a lifetime through a full circle of programs and services, including:

• Introduction – Golf in Schools, Fairway to Success After School Program, Drive, Chip and Putt and Summer Golf Camps

• Playing – Team and PGA Junior League Golf, Prep and Medalist Levels and All American Tour – 400+ tournaments per year

• Education – College Scholarships – $2.06M distributed including $265,000 awarded in 2017

• Employment – Internship Program, Fairway to Success After School Program and Summer Golf Camps

• Philanthropy – Kids Play FORE Kids, Ewing Charity Classic, Birdies for Kids, the Jerry J. Ransom Pro-Junior-Am and the Royal Oaks’ Great 108

The Northern Texas PGA Junior Golf Foundation is governed by the Northern Texas PGA Board of Directors.

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