Hector Vega of San Jose is co-valedictorian of James Lick High School, winner of a $20,000 National Merit Scholarship and the winner of the national Coca-Cola scholarship, reports the San Jose Mercury News. He has chosen Santa Clara University out of the six that have accepted him so far because it offered him a full scholarship and will let him stay close to his mother.
The report says Vega, who spoke no English five years ago when he came from Mexico, not only mastered the language in a year, he advanced to honors classes and graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade-point average.
The Mercury News says Vega, 19, is making a risky choice in sharing his story in the current environment of intense debate over immigration reform, but he says, "There's bigger things. The dream, the hope, the idea that you can better yourself."
A controversial clause in a U.S. Senate-passed immigration reform bill would allow Vega to gain legal status, but the final version is pending.