DOBSON — Surry Community College students Nancy Garcia-Villa of Dobson, and Mariana Vasquez Gallardo of Boonville, as well as 2020 SCC graduate Leslie Hernandez of Yadkinville, were recently named to the NC Latinx 20 Under 20 list for their academic achievements and contributions to their community.
Each year, LatinxEd launches the competition, Latinx 20 Under 20, recognizing the achievements of Latinx students across the state. These 20 list makers were recognized during a virtual gala held on Oct. 10. Recipients are selected with scholarship, community, and leadership as the main criteria.
Nancy García Villa is from Dobson, and calls Michoacán, Mexico home. She is a student at Surry Early College High School. Villa is an advocate for immigrant rights, furthering education for undocumented students, climate change reform, and abolishing institutional racism. She plans to be an immigration lawyer after she finishes school. She would like to major in English or public policy and minor in minority studies or Spanish. Her community has supported her, and she would like to show her gratitude. She attributes her success to her family and wants to work to give them a better life and help her community to grow as well.
Mariana Vazquez Gallardo was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and has lived in Boonville for most of her life. She attends Yadkin Early College High School and is the daughter of two farm workers and sister to what she calls one of the best people she knows. She wants to help the underrepresented and give a voice to those that she says help this nation grow. Gallardo believes people in the Latinx community deserve health care and that they should be treated just like anyone else. In the future, she hopes to be able to help those in her community as a nurse practitioner and offer them the proper care they need.
Leslie Hernandez, a proud Mexican American, is in her first year at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a 2020 graduate of the Yadkin Early College High School and was their indoor girls soccer team captain. She was also involved with the Juntos 4-H and served as president, vice president, and secretary to bring awareness to the Latino community that higher education is attainable. She plans to major in political science to bring civil reformation to her communities and represent Latinos, especially Latinas.
“Our college is extremely proud of these students’ achievements, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have accompanied these exceptional individuals on their educational journey,” said Dr. Jami Woods, vice president of academic affairs at Surry Community College. “I hope all students will read their stories and take inspiration from their accomplishments.”
Sarah Wright, lead instructor, languages and humanities; English and political science instructor; and Scholars of Global Distinction advisor for Surry Community College, went into more detail.
“Last year, the second year of the awards, Surry Community College had three students named to the list as well,” Wright said. “Jose Yair Castellanos Gallegos and Cristo Daniel Salazar, students at Yadkin Early College High School, and Anayeli Garcia Villa, a student at Surry Early College High School of Design were named to the list.”
“Statistics and trends show Surry Community College certainly has an increasing Latinx population, as the local K-12 school systems do as well. We are aware of the data and work to provide relevant programs for this growing population, but what these students provide us—their experiences, their efforts, and their stories go far beyond the data. Having worked with these three recipients, as well as the three Latinx 20 under 20 students for 2019, I know their futures are bright, but so are ours because they are part of our community and lives. I am beyond proud of their academic successes, involvement, and leadership. At the core of all statistics is the people the numbers represent. Nancy, Mariana, and Leslie are excellent leaders in their community and our campus community,” Wright added.
A July article from EdNC reported for the first time that North Carolina has appeared on a list maintained by the national group Excelencia in Education of institutions who are considered “emerging” in terms of becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions, which carries a Department of Education designation. Surry Community College has the sixth highest enrollment of Latinx students in the state, though several colleges maintain a similar percentage. Excelencia in Education’s data shows that Latinx students comprise 16.6% of Surry Community College’s enrollment.