One for the Record Books

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Five students at Ysleta High School in El Paso have made history by being the largest single group of Hispanic students from a general-attendance public high school to gain admission to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The news reached Alicia Ayala, David Villarreal, Jesus A. Martinez, Enrique E. Arzaga, and Liliana Ramirez at the end of March, said Roger Parks, the school's principal.

Admission to the school is highly competitive, said Joe co sic. gb Jasso, the assistant director of admissions at M.I.T., and most years only 1,000 out of 7,000 applicants are accepted. Race and ethnicity are not considered in reviewing candidates.

Ninety-six percent of Ysleta students are Hispanic, and the school is located in a crime- and drug-ridden part of the city. Nevetheless, other graduates of the school, including last year's salutatorian, also a Hispanic student of immigrant parents, have gone on to M.I.T., the principal said.

The students, along with 10 others from area schools, were chosen out of 55 applicants in the El Paso area who were interviewed by Tony Marquez, a local dentist and M.I.T. alumnus.

"I am very impressed with these kids,'' Mr. Marquez said. "They are coming from underprivileged families and are headed toward one of the most prestigious schools in the country.''

Lillian Ramirez, one of the five, could not speak English when she emigrated from Mexico three years ago.

The five students say they aim to be engineers or computer analysts. Mr. Parks credited two teachers--Paul Cain, a computer-mathematics instructor, and Charles Hawkins, a physics teacher--with inspiring them.

"They are highly motivated kids with strong parental support,'' Mr. Parks said. "They are marvelous students and we have more like them.''

Vol. 11, Issue 30, Page 2

Published in Print: April 15, 1992, as One for the Record Books
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