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McCollum High School senior earns First Lady Michelle Obama's praise

Rocio Alvarado recalls historic moment with First Lady

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Rocio Alvarado has come a long way from the small town in Mexico that her family left 10 years ago to taking center stage last Friday for a historic moment with First Lady Michelle Obama.

"She looked right into my eyes," the 18-year-old McCollum High School senior said. "I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it's you!'"

Before introducing one of the most admired women in the world at last Friday's College Signing Day at UTSA, Alvarado was asked to share her story with more than 2,000 high school seniors from across South Texas.

"She is pretty amazing and I know she represents all of you so well," the First Lady later said. "Her story of grit and determination and commitment to education, that's what we're celebrating today."

Now a legal resident, Alvarado recalled her family's struggles in the U.S.

"My parents barely had jobs," Alvarado said, and their humble home offered little protection from the weather.

Alvarado said to make ends meet, she would help her mother sell tamales outside their little house.

She said given those obstacles, "In my mind, those who went to college were people with money and more opportunities."

But Alvarado said her parents still believed education was the key to success in America.  

"I have made huge strides in closing the gap between my English language and my native Espanol," Alvarado said.

She went from English as a second language courses to dual credit and advanced placement courses.

Alvarado said she was eligible to graduate in three years, but chose to stay to take the criminal justice course she wanted.

After receiving five college acceptance letters and several scholarships, Alvarado said she plans to major in criminal justice, with a minor in psychology, at UTSA.

She said she wants to become either a criminal defense attorney or a school counselor, like Diana Rangel at McCollum High School.

Alvarado thanked Rangel in her opening remarks last Friday.

Still filled with pride, she told Alvarado today, "I was standing there watching you. I was crying and crying and crying. Then I heard you say my name."

Rangel said it was thrilling, "Not only for me as a counselor, but all counselors in our state."

By fulfilling her pledge to the First Lady by graduating from college, Alvarado said she also will honor her father who recently died and her mother who has supported her dreams, "even when they seemed like stars in the distance."

Click here to view a slideshow of Rocio Alvarado.

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.

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