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Great Graduates 2020: Caitlin Vela-Mota

Vela-Mota intends to go to UT-Austin and major in chemical engineering

SAN ANTONIO – For one local high school senior what started as a year of questions about where she would live has now ended with a scholarship and a success story about determination.

Caitlin Vela-Mota of the North East Independent School District has exemplified academic prowess and perseverance and is now a KSAT12 2020 Great Graduate.

“I was so happy, because I was actually losing hope at that time,” graduating senior Vela-Mota said about the moment she learned she was getting a special award. Vela-Mota received a scholarship for homeless youth and part of that award is a trip to Washington DC.

But the months and years leading to the excitement were first filled with challenges.

“In June, I stopped living with my mom, I thought it was the best for me and I ended up living with my aunt and her wife for a little bit,” Vela-Mota said.

But that situation only lasted a few months, and then came December when it became just her and her aunt.

“We were in that apartment for about a month, but we couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have enough money to pitch-in even more because I was already working a lot while going full-time to school. So she told me you’re gonna have to go,” Vela-Mota said.

It is a scary situation for anyone, let alone a high school student.

“Honestly it was a lot, because in my head I’m like, I just really don’t wanna end up on the street or end up going to the shelter, because I have been to a shelter when I was like six with my mom,” Vela-Mota said.

But Caitlin kept her eye on the prize: the University of Texas at Austin.

Great Graduate 2020: Caitlin Vela-Mota
Great Graduate 2020: Caitlin Vela-Mota (KSAT)

“It was a healthy distraction for me and an escape and the best way I can get accepted or even go is to make sure that I am a good candidate,” Vela-Mota said.

Caitlin has not had an easy path, but her perseverance, her tenacity and her strength are simply amazing. Her peers and even her teachers and counselors say they’ve learned a lot from her.

“Never give up, and to be strong and that sometimes life circumstances happen and you can always learn from it,” Kathy Johnson, a counselor at NEISD said.

When Caitlin becomes a longhorn student in the fall, she wants to major in chemical engineering.

“My goal is to basically just help people, I feel like I should give back as much as I can, as people have helped me throughout my life,” Vela-Mota said.

Caitlin currently has a home with a family she calls her godparents and the sky for her now has no limits.

“It’s easy to talk about someone you love and admire, she is amazing. This girl is going places, I’m telling you this girl is going places,” Johnson said.


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