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RPS 205 student wins scholarship as Jefferson freshman

Edgar Gaytan was just a high school freshman when he won a college scholarship. His mature way of thinking, one of his teachers says, makes him stand out from his peers at Jefferson High School.

He has stood out in his country as well. Edgar, who is now a sophomore, was one of only five students in the United States to win a $1,000 529 College Savings Scholarship. More than 1,100 students submitted essays to compete for the scholarship. The contest is sponsored by EverFi, which offers financial education courses in schools. At Jefferson, the courses’ cost is underwritten by Rockford Bank & Trust.

Edgar Gaytan, a Jefferson High School sophomore, is one of five students in the country to win a college scholarship from an education technology company.

Edgar Gaytan, a Jefferson High School sophomore, is one of five students in the country to win a college scholarship from an education technology company.

Edgar, 15, traces the end of his “little kid mentality” to a trip he took to Mexico four years ago to see his mother and father’s hometown. “When you talk about very bad places in the United States,” he said, “it’s nothing compared to Mexico. There are literally houses with cardboard roofs, a fence made out of a bed frame. There’s no road. It’s all dirt. I grew to appreciate more things in the United States.”

His essay reflected both his thankfulness for his parents’ sacrifice and his realization that education is the key to success. 

Both of my parents are from a little town in a poor place in Mexico called Monclova, Coahuila. In his life in Mexico, my father confronted many conflicts such as: gangs, drug money, corrupt government, etc. I see my mother as a role model because she came from a place in Mexico where starvation and poverty were the norm. Since my mother was the oldest in her family, and her own mother was often working, my mother had to mature at a very young age and take care of her seven siblings. She had all of these responsibilities and, yet, she still had time for her education.

Following his mother’s lead, Edgar sets high expectations for his own education. A member of the Business, Arts, Modern World Languages and Information Technology (BAMIT) Academy in the Rockford Public Schools, he would eventually like to own a business.

These days, between caring for his younger brother and doing his homework, he doesn’t have time for clubs or sports. His payoff is his mother’s pride in him. “I put expectations on myself. Every time I get good grades, I like my mom’s reaction to it,” he said. “I feel like since I don’t work, I can’t provide money, so at least I can provide happiness for my mom.”

Christine Wilke is the Jefferson teacher who encouraged Edgar to apply for the EverFi scholarship. She said you can count on Edgar to be thoughtful and to remind classmates about the flip side of any situation.

His trip to Mexico continues to help him put hardship in perspective and harden his resolve. “As long as you pay attention, as long as you devote yourself to it, you can learn anything,” he said.

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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