Albuquerque student awarded Gates Millennium Scholarship

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It is important to remember your humble beginnings, said 18-year-old Jonathan Salazar.

His story starts in East Los Angeles where he was born.

“We lived in a neighborhood where there was a lot of drive-bys,” he said. “It was living in fear. It was living in poverty. My mom would barely be able to pay the rent.”

He said that is why his family moved to Albuquerque when he was 10 years old.

His parents work long hours at the Sanchez Taco Truck so their four children can get the education they could never get growing up in Mexico.

He said his parents work nearly 18 hour days, seven days a week.

“If they have to kill themselves for 18 hours to put food on the table, then that is my motivation to be able to give back through education and one day buy them their own house,” Salazar said.

Hours of after school programs and long nights studying earned Salazar the title of valedictorian when he graduated from Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in the spring.

Now, he is gearing up to be the first in his family to go out of state for college after being awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.

“I almost cried that weekend. It was amazing!” Salazar said.

It will help him pay for undergraduate, graduate and PhD programs.

It means a better life, his parents say, although they are definitely going to miss him.

Salazar leaves Monday for Duke University.

After saving up for a year, he said, his family will make the trip with him.

Salazar will major in political science at Duke.

“I want to one day become the Governor of New Mexico to help reform education and poverty,” he said. “Later on, who knows, I might want to run for the President of the United States.”

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