Three Irving High School seniors are breathing a little easier in their plight to pay for college, thanks to a generous award from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

AVID students Claudia Lozano, James Morris and Jonnalys Soto have been named Dell Scholars.

Through the prestigious program, each scholar will receive a $20,000 scholarship, laptop and money for books from the program, which recognizes and assists an underserved population – students in the academic middle who are often among the first in their families to attend college. 

“It released a burden off of me,” says James. “I was going to have to change my choices of college. But this helped me. Now, I don’t have to take out loans and graduate with $20,000 of debt. Now it’s more reasonable. I can go to the school I want to go to. I can’t believe it.”

“It’s more breathing room,” adds Jonnalys. “It’s closing the gap for me to have a full-ride to Texas Wesleyan. Instead of being $10,000 short, now I’m at $5,000. I can work all summer and save money and pay that.”

In addition to the monetary award, the Dell Scholars program also provides key resources including a support network to help scholars succeed; confidential counseling services; and financial-aid coaching. 

“It’s not just a scholarship; it’s a college completion program,” says Claudia. “They help you if you have other problems, not just financially. They’re there to make sure you succeed.”

“I didn’t realize how much they do beyond the money,” adds James. “They’re going to be there every step of the way. This is great. It’s like they’re telling us, ‘We care about you.’”

Claudia plans to study biology/pre-med at either the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University, with aspirations of becoming a doctor. 

“I’m not exactly sure what branch I want to pursue, but I do know I want to do something in the medical field,” she says. “I’ve always had that desire because I want to help people. And I like science. This combines both things, plus you get to make a difference in the world.”

James will pursue theatre at either Baylor University or the University of Houston. 

“Both have top theatre departments,” he says. “I want to be an actor. My big dream is New York. But I’m going to use my training in college and start local and try to work my way up. I started acting sophomore year. We just coincided – me and acting. I just loved it.”

Jonnalys is headed to Texas Wesleyan University to major in criminal justice with a focus on pre-law.

“My end goal is to be a Supreme Court judge,” she says. “But when I’m first out of law school, I want to give back to my community. So I want to work with Project Innocence and practice juvenile law to work with youth. I work with the YMCA, and I want to give back to them for all they do for me. I didn’t have such a nice childhood, and I saw a lot of things go wrong in our justice system for young people. I hope to make a difference that way.”

Equipped with the resources afforded by the Dell scholarship and with their accomplishments up to this point, their AVID teacher, Liliana Middlebrooks, has no doubt that Jonnalys, Claudia and James will each leave their mark.

“These three students are so deserving of this scholarship,” she says. “I look forward to seeing what they have in store for the world!”