Booker T. Washington student wins full FIU scholarship from Kiwanis club

MIAMI (WSVN) - A student from Booker T. Washington received an academic surprise after she was awarded a full scholarship for college.

Along with a list of accomplishments, Valeria Antunez can now add that she is the winner of the sixth Biscayne Bay Kiwanis Club College Scholarship award.

The award means Antunez will receive a full ride to Florida International University.

“It’s a dream, like — dream come true,” Antunez said.

Antunez was chosen from among 15 other applicants but proved she’s no ordinary student.

“What set her apart and what just really put her over-the-top was the fact that for 14 years she spoke nothing but Spanish,” said Rick Freedman, the chairman for the scholarship committee. “She came to this country four years ago not knowing a single word of English, and within four years, not only did she get through the ESOL program here at the school, but she’s graduating in the top two percent of her class with a 4.4 GPA, and it just blew us away.”

The moment is a proud one for Antunez’s single mother Laura Vargas, who moved the family to South Florida from their home in Honduras in hopes of giving her a better life.

“I was helping her from the beginning. ‘Okay, Valera, you have to do this, this, this and this,” Vargas said. “That’s why I’m so proud.”

Antunez will be the first in her family to go to college.

“You definitely have to work hard. Hard work is going to pay off,” she said.

During her four years at Booker T. Washington High School, she was inducted into the National Honor Society, joined the JROTC, became president of ASPIRA, a national Hispanic organization for youth, and won numerous outstanding student awards.

Antunez said without this scholarship, going to college would have come with another set of challenges.

“I wouldn’t have the opportunity to live on campus, and I live far away from, so I would have to take the bus every day, back and forth,” she said.

Now, Antunez’s dream is becoming a reality.

“We believe in the American dream,” said Vargas

Antunez will begin in summer and plans to study finance. She said her goal is to open her own business some day.

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