HARLINGEN — Harlingen Family Dentistry hosted its 9th annual values-based Scholarship Competition recently and in the process provided scholarships to three students.

Students were acknowledged and awarded for their community projects that incorporated “The Way to Happiness precepts” and JROTC Core Values.

Schools from across the Rio Grande Valley participated in the contest. The three winners will share $6,000 in scholarships when they register in an institution of higher learning of their choice.

In the competition, members of local high school JROTC programs present activities they have personally done to implement precepts contained in “The Way to Happiness” book and the JROTC Core Values.

The common goal is to help make the world a better place.

All participants were awarded certificates of commendation from U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela.

The certificates read, “Congratulating to you on a job well done and celebrating your commitment to The Way to Happiness and the JROTC Core Values that improve the quality of life in your communities.”

The first-place winner was Harlingen High School student Gabriela Reyes.

Her instructor was Master Sergeant Tony Gonzales and 1LT Moses Mendoza. Gabriela’s project, “One Step Closer,” focused on the students who need an extra push in the right direction.

Her goal was to teach the students the Army Core Values and the 21 Ways to Happiness Precepts. She achieved her goal by not only teaching the goals, but she had the students apply them through the various projects that not only helped the students but also helped the community.

Second place was captured by Gabriel Figueroa, Rio Hondo High School, with instructor Lt. Col. Clifford Moriarty.

Gabriel’s project was to conduct the first ever official Rio Hondo City Cleanup.

Gabriel and his JROTC team collected 180 pounds of trash, exceeding their goal by 80 pounds.

With his accomplishments, other high school clubs are making plans to do other community projects to beautify Rio Hondo.

He has built a bridge between Rio Hondo City Hall and the Rio Hondo High School JROTC by achieving city approval to conduct any and all community projects.

Third-place winner was Joseph Castro, Simon River Early College High School, Brownsville, instructor Col. Junior Tilly.

His conducted a scholarship chess tournament.

They had more than 2,000 competitors, mostly elementary school children who brought their parents.

He organized his JROTC unit to help keep order and facilitate the two-day chess competition.

Runner-up awards were presented to Anacecilia Santoyo, Veterans Memorial, Brownsville, Instructor, Chief Warrant Officer Raul Rodriguez; Angelo Corona, Edinburg North High School, Instructor LTC James Troia; Niurka Magalie Cervantes, Harlingen High School South; Victoria Alondra Leyva, Harlingen High School South, Instructor, Major Pedro Gonzalez; Adelaida Flores, Weslaco High School; and Maria G. Martinez, Weslaco High School, Instructor SFC Mario Gonzales.

“We are very proud of these winners,” said Dr. Villarreal. “We are also proud and grateful for all the contestants who worked so hard with their instructors contributing to their community. As far as we are concerned, they are all winners.”

The 2016 competition judges included Sheriff Omar Lucio; Navy Lieutenant Israel Villarreal; Serafin Pardon, Walgreen’s manager; Rick Caballero, Khan’s Grill CEO; Major Dolores Watts, Salvation Army; Lisa Seiser, Valley Morning Star Editor; and Officer Hector Villegas, Harlingen Police Department Ernest Espinosa, Boy Scouts.

Portfolio judges were Judy Emsley, educator (retired); and Marsha Gramley, Principal (Retired).

Competition tabulator was Janie Sandoval, Rio Grande Valley Credit Union and the timekeeper, was John Hollingsworth, Rotarian.

To qualify for the competition, JROTC cadets were required to present a portfolio containing a JROTC Service Criteria resume, cover letter, certificates of achievement and references.

Each candidate in the competition presents a portfolio summation of results achieved in implementing “The Way to Happiness” precepts and JROTC Core Values.

In addition, each student makes an oral and visual presentation to the judges, with project documentation.