Highest Ranking Graduate Earns Avalos Teaching Scholarship

Pictured from left to right, Enrique Avalos Jr., Cindy Johnson, Enrique Avalos Sr., and Verónica Méndez, Assistant Provost and Dean

By Laura Nelson

How does someone transition from not caring about attending college to graduating from Sul Ross State University in Del Rio with a bachelor’s degree with the highest academic honor that can be earned?

Ask Cindy Johnson. When she graduated from Del Rio High School, she knew what she wanted and it wasn’t college. She does not remember anyone encouraging her to go to college, but she does admit that if someone did, she was not listening. She made a different choice and it wasn’t too long before she was a single mom, working long, hard hours for minimum wage, and she said, “I wasn’t making it.” Cindy decided to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to provide a better life for her son, Louis Ibarra III. After finishing the first two years at Southwest Texas Junior College, she transferred to SRSU in Del Rio and completed her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies after starting at SWTJC only four years earlier.

The honors student first chose teaching because it meant she could spend more time with her son, but it soon turned into a calling. While completing her degree, she worked as a substitute teacher and was both moved and inspired by her students. She feels she can motivate students to achieve and also provide them with clear expectations, such as encouraging them to attend college.

Cindy recently met Enrique Avalos and his son, Enrique Jr. to thank them for the Esmeralda Rosalia Avalos Teacher Education Scholarship she received. As she told her story, Enrique Sr. said, “That’s what it’s all about,” referring to helping students in need and watching them succeed. The scholarship is given every year in memory of his daughter who aspired to be a teacher, but health concerns meant it was not to be. Esme passed away and the family started the teaching scholarship in her memory. Fund raising was so successful that the family also gives a nursing scholarship.

Ms. Johnson has earned summa cum laude honors, which means her grade point average is between 3.90 and 4.0, and as the highest ranking graduate, she will lead the Pledge of Allegiance at commencement. Her parents, Rudy, originally from Eagle Pass, mother Cynthia, and son will be there to celebrate as will her brother Rudy, Jr., who is making a special trip from Japan where he is deployed in the U.S. Navy. Members of the Avalos family also plan to attend.

The SRSU commencement ceremony for the Del Rio, Eagle Pass, and Uvalde campuses will be held Sat., Dec. 15, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the John Harrell Auditorium at Uvalde High School.