Sophomore, Kayla De Leon, was invited to tour Washington University at St. Louis this past summer by Harvard alumnus and Jimmy Carter principal. Kayla was one out of two students in the entire Early College High School  that got to tour and visit universities, and travel outside the state of Texas. She was chosen by the freshman Algebra I teacher, Ms. Queen Martin, a recent graduate from Harvard University and by Ms. Claudia Gomez-Perez, Jimmy Carter’s very own principal because of her involvement in UIL Math and academic history. 

The Washington University at St. Louis is a diverse private research university most noted for their sub-schools dedicated to Medicine, Business, Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences and more. 

”It was pretty cool, I had never traveled outside of Texas before and on a plane so I saw many new places and it was very interesting,” Kayla said. 

Kayla did not travel alone; in fact, she traveled with other La Joya students from Thelma Salinas STEM ECHS and The Academy of Health Science Professions while also meeting many other “unforgettable” people, as Kayla quotes, from Pharr and Weslaco, Texas. She got to first meet these friends at a pre-session where she went over the procedures for the trip, discussed expenses, and got to know the people she would be traveling with. 

 Kayla’s expenses were completely covered by the Texas Graduate Center, located in Edinburg, Texas, and La Joya ISD. The Texas Graduate Center is an organization that supports programs in higher education and helps individuals from all over the Rio Grande Valley to pursue degrees in esteemed universities all over the U.S. Kayla is the only current sophomore that got the opportunity to travel to WashU.

” I felt like I was privileged. Not many people get to have this opportunity, and the fact that I got it, I felt very privileged,” said Kayla. 

Kayla did not just visit the university. She got to experience the sight of the Gateway Arch, a monument that extends in the city dedicated to “the American people”, and tour the St. Louis Zoo.  Additionally, Kayla got to meet and talk with an alumni from Washington University and learned about her struggles, accomplishments and the overall ride of attending Washington University. After getting to visit and tour the campus, Kayla has learned a lot by meeting new people and experiencing new sights that she herself stated was “very privileged” to see. Now, Kayla plans to apply to Washington University and attend their medical school in the future.

“I hope that I can apply and go to Washington University because it really is a good campus and it has helped me a lot.” 

Marissa Llamas is currently a junior at Jimmy Carter Early College High School. She is in extracurricular activities such as UIL, The National Honor Society and the Texas Association of Future Educators. She has been doing UIL Academics ever since her freshman year and is currently in Mathematics and Number Sense. When she first joined UIL Math, she was shocked to see how she was the only freshman on the team. Last year as a sophomore, she went to the TMSCA competition for UIL Math in San Antonio. This year she was promoted as captain for her UIL Math Team. Her academic goals include to pass all her classes, to hopefully receive internships during the summer, and she plans to lead her Math team straight to regionals in San Antonio. She values how with a little determination, a touch of drive, and with true diligence anything is possible.