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DVHS senior Noel Mendez accepted into Harvard University with full ride

DVHS senior Noel Mendez accepted into Harvard University with full ride
Christian Aleman-Rodriguez

Del Valle High School senior Noel Moctezuma Mendez recently found out he has been accepted into Harvard University and will attend in the fall once he graduates from DVISD. 

The Career Technical Education student has attended DVISD since pre-kindergarten and is now destined for the northeast, leaving Central Texas to pursue higher education. Noel said he was aware of his skills and studies but found it hard to believe he could get into the distinguished university.

“It was just out of this world. I mean, it was unrealistic. I never thought that it would be possible to get accepted into such a prestigious school,” Mendez said about the moment he opened his acceptance letter. “And I was grateful. My family was there, so I was even more blessed that the people I love were there to see me open it.”

It took Noel a week to accept the offer, saying the experience was “crazy” to him. But after getting a copy of the acceptance letter in the mail and with a visit to the campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts planned this weekend, the reality is starting to settle in. 

“Although I'd never thought I could have gotten in, I also know my worth and my value, so I have a chance of getting in. Who says I can’t,” Noel said. “Just because people before me haven’t doesn't mean I can't be the first, you know, or be one of the few that have the opportunity to go.”

He plans to study computer science and possibly business, to work for a major company, like Apple, Google, or Netflix, or even start his own technology company. Mendez already has a head start on computer science as he’s been in the information technology pathway throughout high school and participated in Code2College independently. He’s even had an internship with Eventbrite and has another lined up with H-E-B’s software engineering department this summer. 

In addition to his extensive school work, Noel has participated in debate, the National Honor Society, Red Cross, and various volunteer opportunities, and he is currently the student council president. 

“I think it's inspiring. He had some friends, I thought one was going to start crying. I mean, they were really excited for him,” said Tina Jansen, a high school CTE computer science and information technology teacher. 

She has taught Noel since he was a freshman and told his class about the opportunity with Code2College, a program that cultivates students interested in engineering at the high school level. Despite all the classes and additional work Noel has been engaged with, he’s made time to help those around him. 

“Well, he's a leader in our community and a lot of the kids go to him for help and he's always, when he's done, he's always one of those people that goes around and sees how everyone's doing,” Tina said. “Noel gives us hope for the next generations.”

Noel credits teachers like Tina and Kate Murphy, a CTE science and health teacher, along with classes regarding college transition, with helping him learn about higher education opportunities and Kate specifically with helping him prepare for the interview with Harvard. 

“I feel immensely proud. Also, honestly, I just feel really, really happy that other kids can see that it's possible. I think that's what makes it the most exciting,” Kate said. “I know he doesn't really like the attention, but it's really important that other people see that this is possible, that it's not out of reach. You apply yourself and you can do whatever. That for me is a big thing.”

Noel is the first person in his family to go to college, and he hopes to set a positive example for others to reach for their dreams. He recalled being asked by his Harvard interviewer why he wanted to attend the university. 

“And I said I'm the first to go to college and I think it would set an example for, not just my family to come, but just other students from my community that you don't have to be in a family line where everybody went to college. You could be the first to make the change and you could be the first one to go to a prestigious school like Harvard,” Noel said. 

His advice to students aiming high is a quote from his mom: “Échale ganas.” To him, that means trying your best. 

“I always make sure that I try my best and that's all you can do, you know? Just make sure you’re always trying your best,” he iterated.

In addition to a full ride to Harvard, Noel has secured a $40,000 scholarship from Amazon and a $20,000 scholarship from Dell. He’s still waiting to hear back from other applications and says he plans to use those funds to attend graduate school if he decides to.

When asked why he was motivated to pursue these goals, he said: “For my mom.”

DVHS senior Noel Mendez at computer
DVHS senior Noel Mendez with CTE teacher Tina Jansen
DVHS senior Noel Mendez with CTE teacher Kate Murphy
DVHS senior Noel Mendez was accepted into Harvard University
DVHS senior Noel Mendez at computer