Many Jimmy Carter Early College High School alums go on to achieve their aspirations. Karen Gonzalez, a 2014 alumna of JCECHS, exemplifies the passion of Carter students alike through the journey into and beyond college.
Karen Gonzalez is the current bilingual Meteorologist for KRGV Channel 5 News and is among the first students to graduate from JCECHS. Coming from a modest background in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Jimmy Carter Early College was her pathway to success.
“At the time, the new, strange, and empty building presented an opportunity that I never imagined I could have,” Gonzalez said. “I was among the first 100 students when the school opened.”
Gonzalez first learned of JCECHS from Silvina Sepulveda, a former principal of Dr. Saenz Middle School. Mrs. Sepulveda had addressed early college as a way for students to accelerate during their high school years. For a school to hold the early college distinction in the La Joya Independent School District was wholly new and, for some, unexpected.
“My mother (…) immediately saw it as the chance to jumpstart the American Dream,” Gonzalez said. “A dream that prompted our family’s move from Nuevo Leon, Mexico.”
Having been introduced to newfound hope, Gonzalez was enrolled in Carter.
“Before learning about Jimmy, the thought of attending college had never crossed my mind,” Gonzalez said. “I grew up envisioning a future where I would become a housewife, mirroring the paths of my mother, aunts, and cousins.”
The cohort of students and Gonzalez experienced first-hand how success starts at Carter. Staff and administration diligently instilled a college mindset through severe discussions and engaging activities.
“A pivotal experience for me was the opportunity to visit various universities across the state, including UTPA and STC,” Gonzalez said. “It was a big contrast against the backdrop of my strict upbringing.”
With JCECHS, Gonzalez began learning more thanks to school-sponsored trips. She began exploring what seemed boundless horizons.
“During my four years at high school, we visited numerous institutions, including STC, UTRGV, UT, RU, ATM, UTSA, TXST, and UH,” Gonzalez said. “These experiences (…) ignited a fire within me for exploration, independence, and ambition.”
Gonzalez graduated Carter ready for what lay ahead. She was aware of the advantage Carter had given her.
“It was clear to me: college was essential to having the future I yearned for,” Gonzalez said. “JCECHS prepared me for the academic rigors and expectations of college professors.”
Gonzalez graduated from UTRGV in 2016 with a degree in communication studies. She began working for KRGV-TV as a camera operator. The station needed a Spanish-speaking meteorologist, offering to lend her the position, leading Gonzalez to return to school for a degree in meteorology.
“Seven years later, I am now a proud bilingual meteorologist for KRGV Channel 5 news,” Gonzalez said. “Best of all, I’ve balanced my career with being a mother and a wife.”
Gonzalez continues working for KRGV in her career as a meteorologist, acknowledging Carter was crucial to her success.
“To current JCEC students, savor every moment,” Gonzalez said. “I’m proud to say I’ve achieved the American Dream for both my parents and myself.”
At Carter, success starts with you.

Yankarlo Munoz is a junior at Jimmy Carter Early College High School and serves as a reporter for the student newspaper. He recognizes the importance of journalism and values its ethical principles. He has contributed to the Student Publication and hopes to do more.