The first day of school has come and gone here at Irving ISD, but for our alumni, the start of the college school year is fast approaching. Fortunately, for Isaac Arredondo, paying for college is one less thing he’ll have to worry about.

“I was just sitting down when I got the email, and I was stunned for like a solid minute or two,” says Isaac. “I came out and broke the news to my sisters, and we were all elated.”

Isaac, a graduate of Irving High School’s Class of 2022, was one of six recipients from across the country of the 2021-2022 McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship. One of the largest programs committed to providing college scholarships and resources for Hispanics, since its inception the program has awarded $32.5 million to more than 17,000 college students pursuing their higher education dreams.

As a Tier 1 recipient, Isaac will receive $25,000 per year, and as long as he remains in good standing, the scholarship will be valid for all four years of college, totaling $100,000.

“I was prepared to start at a community college this fall,” says Isaac. “Getting this scholarship has helped make my life a lot easier and my educational plans a lot more attainable.”

Those life plans include making a brief stop at the University of Texas at Arlington for his freshman year, and then going on to transfer to the University of Texas at Austin to complete his studies and major in economics. Once Isaac completes his undergraduate degree, he hopes to get into law school, where he’ll study corporate or constitutional law.

“We’re living in a very tense time in history right now,” says Isaac. “I want to be able to make a big change in the world, and if that’s not possible, I want to change a million small things so that it equates to a big change. What better way to do that than through the biggest institution available to me – our government.”

During his time at Irving High School, Isaac was involved in a variety of organizations including the National Honor Society; serving as Student Council historian, secretary and parliamentarian; and participating in Academic Decathlon, qualifying for regionals and state. However, the process of obtaining this life-changing scholarship all started with an assignment in Ms. Liliana Middlebrooks’ AVID class.

As a vegetarian, Isaac didn’t frequent McDonald’s often, so he hadn’t seen any of the posters inside the restaurant encouraging students like him to apply. He had heard several ads on Spotify about it, but it wasn’t until his teacher made it a grade that he decided to go for it.

“If we met the scholarship qualifications, it was an assignment for us to apply, and I figured, I might as well,” says Isaac. “If I didn’t get it, it was a 100 in the grade book. If I did, it was a 100 in the grade book along with a much-needed scholarship.”

Once he submitted the application, the waiting game began. As time passed, he would eagerly look at his inbox hoping to receive updates. After a few weeks, he was named a semifinalist. A few months after that, Isaac was named a finalist. The final step was a series of interviews with executives at McDonald’s so Isaac could promote himself and prove to them why he deserved to win.

“Every day, I was checking my email and looking up discussion boards on blog sites hoping to see some sort of news or an update,” says Isaac.

Finally, in late June around 5 PM, Isaac received the long-awaited email and the rest was history. After telling his family, Isaac forwarded the email to the teachers who motivated him along the way, adding “I guess I’m UT-Austin bound, couldn’t have done it had it not been for you guys.” 

Isaac encourages all Hispanic Irving ISD students who will be graduating this year to apply for the 2022-2023 McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship once the application opens in the fall. He also offers some words of advice when applying for scholarships.

“Your grades only get your foot in the door,” says Isaac. “Your writing is where you get to shine. Do the best you can with the writing prompts that they give you. That’s what really made it for me.”

Isaac also advises students to not get discouraged if they keep receiving rejection letters.

“Don’t let a rejection letter get you down,” says Isaac. “My AVID teacher always said that for every 10 scholarships you apply to, you may only receive one to two acceptances. Don’t take no for an answer and just keep continuing with your applications, and always strive for more.”