Sunday, June 23, 2024

Manson High School Senior earns full scholarship to Johns Hopkins

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MANSON – Manson High School Senior Alexis Villaseñor was recently accepted with a full scholarship to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Maryland to study neurosurgery. 

Villaseñor applied to Johns Hopkins after his teacher told him it is an excellent school for research and one of the top five in neuroscience, he said.

However, he did not think that he would get in because it is a very selective school. So when he got the news he felt a lot of different emotions.

"It was like all the emotions because like you're excited for your future but you are also nervous because you don't know what's gonna happen," he said. "And then, in a sense, you're also kind of sad, slightly too, because you cannot see your family for years, or only if you have holidays, and live in a different state."

His parents, Ruben and Olivia were excited and joyful to hear the news.

Olivia describes her son as "very responsible and very hardworking and a very nice son."

"He likes to study and learn more and more," she said.

Kate Sorenson is a math teacher at Manson High School and has taught Villaseñor in eight college courses. She encouraged him to apply to Johns Hopkins.

"As a student, Alexis is a tireless worker," Sorenson said. "He sets high expectations for himself, and he doesn't stop working until he meets his goals. He is diligent, resilient, and intelligent. He will end high school with an impressive 3.98 GPA and over 60 college credits."

"Alexis truly exemplifies what it means to live the American dream," Sorenson wrote in her recommendation letter. "His parents have instilled in him the essence of hard work and dedication, and he has embraced and embodied these values like no other student I have encountered in my years of teaching. His remarkable blend of diligence and intelligence sets him apart, making him a force to be reckoned with."

Villaseñor wants to go into the field of neurosurgery because he has been fascinated by the brain since he was a young child. He remembers asking his teacher for books about the brain. He is excited to research and find cures for diseases affecting the brain.

Another more personal reason he wants to study neurosurgery is because of his great-grandmother. His mother told him the story of how her grandmother died from a brain tumor that could have been treated with surgery. She lived in Mexico, and because she did not have the means to pay for surgery, doctors would not treat her, he said.

"Then that kind of made me realize that I wanted to help other individuals not suffer the same tragedies my mother had to witness," he said.

Villaseñor is also motivated by his parents and not afraid of hard work.

"So I guess what motivated me is especially my mom and my father when they came to this country, since they immigrated to the United States," he said.

He felt like he needed to try hard for a better education, which is how a lot of immigrants feel when they arrive to this country, he said.

"They kind of see themselves like, I guess, almost like a debt that we have to pay for our parents since they sacrificed everything for us to be here," he said.

"And then also like when my mother used to tell me to try really hard, like don't give up because sometimes in life you may not get the grade you want," he said. "But there's always a second chance that you could. And in the middle of those times, like writing an essay at 3 in the morning or all nighters, like I knew in order for me to get my reward, I need to work hard for it."

His mother also worked hard to earn her GED through classes at Manson schools.

"As a 2nd grader at Manson, Alexis came to us as a Spanish speaker with no knowledge of the English language," Sorenson said. "In ten short years, he has grown into a remarkable young man who is fluent in English and studying neuroscience in his free time. With his acceptance to Johns Hopkins, he is reminding our entire community that with perseverance, even the biggest of dreams can be realized." 

In March, the university flew Villaseñor and his mother to Maryland to visit the campus. That was his first time flying on a plane.

"I flew to Baltimore with my mother for the first time and spent an entire day at the Johns Hopkins Campus," he said. "It was then that I realized this is where I want to spend the next four years of my life, at the world's most renowned research institution."

When Villasenior visited the Johns Hopkins neuroscience department he was excited by all of the advanced lab equipment and machines for research that undergrads get to use. 

"It was very intriguing and great for research purposes," he said.

"Beyond his academic achievements, Alexis stands out as an extraordinary friend, teammate, and son," Sorenson said. "His personality is both fun and goofy, yet he is able to be a strong leader, always encouraging others to reach their full potential. His attitude is always, "Why be average when you can be exceptional with hard work?"

Villaseñor will be one of 61 graduating seniors this spring. A Manson High 2024 valedictorian will not be selected until mid-May when trimester grades are in, but due to his GPA, he will be among the students considered for the honor.

Villaseñor not only maintains impressive grades but is also active in a plethora of activities, clubs, and sports. Additionally, he assists his father with his landscaping business and taught himself marketing skills and the math necessary to manage the business.

When asked if there was anything else people should know, he offered sage advice.

"When you're struggling in life, and need to achieve something, always look at the finish line and that will motivate you to do all the hard work and stuff you have to do," he said.

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media.

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