Great Graduates: Lucero Castaneda, Somerset High School

Castaneda is first Somerset ISD student to attend Harvard University

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SAN ANTONIO – Lucero Castaneda is the daughter of an immigrant, and is now part of the first generation of her family to go to college. And not just any college. She's headed to Harvard.

Castaneda beat the odds and is now the first student from the Somerset Independent School District to attend the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Here are five things to know about Lucero Castaneda:

Family is very important to her. Lucero said her parents are a big influence and source of inspiration for her success. 

"My brother played a role, too, because he was one of the first in the family to go to college, he goes to Texas A&M," she said. "When I was little, he started to go to school because he is three years older than me, and immediately I was like, 'I need to go to school, too, and learn like he's learning.'"  

Castaneda's parents said they knew she was destined for greatness from a young age.

"She was always very independent, very goal-driven. I remember when she was 2 years old, she would cry because she wanted to go to school," said Lucero's mother, Elva Castaneda. 

ROTC played a role in her academic success. 

Castaneda is a leader in the Somerset Junior ROTC program, which actually helped her land a four-year scholarship to Harvard. 

"Every challenge I gave her, she took. First, she was a little nervous (and) then she took it to another (level)," said Derrick Burden, leader of the JRPTC program.

The road to academic success hasn't been an easy road for Castaneda, who said she has faced big disadvantages, and in some situations even had to teach herself to keep up with the national competition. 

"We do lack in a lot of materials, we don't have up-to-date textbooks, we don't have enough books for everyone, sometimes," she said. "For online classes, we won't have enough laptops for everyone, or just have technology issues."  

But Castaneda said despite the obstacles, students should never give up. 

"It just shows no matter where you come from, or what your background is, no matter what, you can make it," she said.


Castaneda is ready to skip the summer and head to Harvard. 

"I'm absolutely in love with the campus. There's so much to do. We saw their acapella and mariachi groups perform, and I was just amazed. And it's just all so amazing," she said. 

During her visit to Harvard, she said the only problem was the lack of tacos in Massachusetts. But her mother has a solution for that "problem." 

"If you're feeling homesick, I'll go over there, make you some tacos and you're good to go again," Elva Castaneda said.

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Big plans. 

Lucero plans to graduate Harvard in four years, and then earn her masters and PhD. She hopes to one day become the Army Sergeant General. 

"All we want is for our kids to be able to survive without us in the world and be successful and do better than how we did," said Elva Castaneda, who couldn't hold back tears.

About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.