Xitlaly Mendoza knows the mental health issues her peers have faced.
Connell High School created a student survey to show the community how profoundly depression and other mental health issues have impacted students.
She presented her findings to the North Franklin School Board and the Mesa City Council, where she serves as a student representative.
Superintendent Jim Jacobs said the district eventually hired more counselors and more students were connected to resources through his research.
“Xitlaly is a wonderful young and future leader who has more leadership experience and opportunities at her age than I ever had at her age,” Jacobs said. “This young woman is a civic-minded future leader heading to the University of Washington and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
It was a significant contribution to her school of 640, and is part of the reason why she received the top scholarship of $10,000 from the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program (HAAP), sponsored by Fiesta Foods.
On Friday, Medoza and 20 other high school students received a total of $75,000 as part of HAAP’s 33rd annual scholarship night.
“This year’s class has had the most difficult path to academic excellence based on two and a half years of the COVID pandemic,” read a statement from the organization.
“HAAP is especially proud of this year’s seniors, who have had to not only battle the pandemic, but also learn online and maintain jobs to support family members who have lost their jobs.”
This year’s keynote speaker was former Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez. The ceremony took place partly online and partly in person.
To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be enrolled in a public or private school in Burbank, Connell, Finley, Kennewick, Pasco, or Richland, and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the first semester their senior year.
HAAP also recognized honor students, grades 4 through 12, with certificates.
Senior scholarship winners
Xitlaly Mendoza is the recipient of the 2022 Fiesta Foods Top Scholarship worth $10,000. She plans to attend the University of Washington to study sociology and communications, hoping to work as a media officer.
Alondra Maqueda, of Connell High School, received $7,500. She will also be graduating with an associate degree from Columbia Basin College this spring. She plans to pursue a criminal justice degree at a soon to be determined college or university and hopes to become a criminal defense attorney.
Valentina Iturbe Fuentes, of Richland High School, received $7,500 from the Sue Frost Scholarship. She will attend Washington State University to study neuroscience and plans to become a doctor.
Angel Ruiz, of Pasco High School, received $5,000 from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He will attend Washington University in St. Louis with the intention of studying mathematics and statistics.
Erika Melo-Flores, of Connell High School, received $5,000. She will be graduating with an associate degree from Columbia Basin College this spring. Melo-Flores will choose between Gonzaga University or Washington State University to pursue nursing studies.
James Michael Arana, from Kamiakin High School, received $4,000 from Numerica. He plans to attend Walla Walla Community College to major in culinary arts. He hopes to own a restaurant and a bakery.
Nereida Cruz, of Tri-Cities Prep, received $4,000. She plans to attend the University of Washington to study neuroscience in hopes of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon.
Nora Ramirez Perez, of Pasco High School, received $2,500. She will attend Eastern Washington University to major in math and plans to work as a math teacher.
Adelina Perez Pollard, of Kennewick High School, received $2,500. She will also graduate from WSU Tri Cities, where she will continue her studies next fall in pursuit of a speech-language pathology degree. She hopes to one day start her own studies department at a college.
Antoine Esquivias, of Delta High School, received $2,000 from the League of United Latin American Citizens. He plans to attend Washington State University to study bioengineering, hoping to work as a prosthetist.
jesus martinez, of Kennewick High School, received $2,000. Martinez is also a graduate of Columbia Basin College. He applied to WSU Tri-Cities, where he will major in psychology and hopes to eventually work as a psychologist.
Brizeida Dayanara Meza-Ortiz, of Southridge High School, received $1,500. She plans to attend the University of Washington or Washington State University to study either genetics and cell biology or public health. She plans to pursue medical school or a physician assistant program after that.
Zugehilee Angel-Centeno, of Southridge High School, received $1,500. She also graduated with her associate degree from Columbia Basin College, where she participated in a research program in chemistry. She hopes to one day work as a general surgeon.
Briceyda Meza Zurita, of Connell High School, received $2,500 from Columbia Basin College. She will attend college in pursuit of an English degree in hopes of working as a preschool teacher. Thereafter, she plans to transfer to Washington State University for Women’s Studies.
Kimberly Mora, of Connell High School, received $2,500 from Columbia Basin College. She will also be graduating this spring with her associate degree. She plans to continue her studies at CBC and plans to work as a nurse.
Perla Cipres, of Pasco High School, received $2,500 from Columbia Basin College. She plans to attend Eastern Washington University to study biology and eventually become a teacher. Cipres is also considering working on a nursing degree.
Celeste Rodriguez, of Kennewick High School, received $2,500 from Columbia Basin College. She plans to attend college to study early childhood education to eventually work as an elementary school teacher.
Angel Machado, of Kennewick High School, received $2,500 from Columbia Basin College. He will attend college, intending to study education and become an elementary school teacher.
Jamilette Briceida Léon Zurita, of Pasco High School, received $2,500. She will also be graduating this spring with an associate’s degree from Columbia Basin College and plans to attend WSU Tri-Cities in the fall to major in family nursing preconditioning.
Brian Andres Licon-Vazquez, of Chiawana High School, received $2,500 from WSU Tri-Cities. He will graduate this spring with his associate degree from Columbia Basin College and plans to attend WSU Tri-Cities for a business administration degree. He hopes to eventually own his own construction business.