TAMPA, Fla. - This month is Hispanic Heritage month and as much of the celebration is focused on the past that has shaped Florida, it’s also about encouraging young Hispanics and their future.
There is a contest that has students saying, "Vamos Tampa Bay."
"If you have a why you will find a how in order to reach your goals," says Carlos Garcia Perez.
Perez is Gaither High’s newest valedictorian and received several acceptance letters from the nation’s top universities.
"Princeton University very early. Also Yale University, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Harvard," he says.
He ended up picking his number one choice; Harvard. "Harvard had been my dream since I was 12 years-old back in Cuba," says Perez.
Reaching that dream meant overcoming some significant odds. Carlos only came to the U.S. five years ago, barely speaking English. He quickly mastered that language, got involved in clubs, sports, and service work. He even took time to enter the Tampa Hispanic Heritage essay contest.
"It's a great way get kids interested in the role of our Hispanic community," says Perez.
Close to 300 kids in Tampa are writing in English or Spanish, researching, drafting, and writing about Spanish culture.
"We make sure that we give the opportunity to anyone who wants to go in. We have four categories, middle school English and Spanish and high school English and Spanish as well. Whether you’re home schooled whether you’re Hispanic or not you still have the opportunity to honor the Spanish culture," says Maribel Garrett, with Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.
“Hispanics have a great responsibility to ensure that their legacy will be a worthy example for future generations,” wrote Perez in the essay picked as a winner in 2017.
"It's an amazing way to get kids thinking about the role of Hispanics in our society."
As Perez leaves behind his footprint, he realizes he’s not done yet.
If you're interested in writing an entry for the contest, the deadline to submit essays is October 26, 2018.
There is a cash prize for the top four winners in four categories. Teachers of winning students also get a prize.
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