Big winners: JROTC students take home scholarships in ‘Way to Happiness” competition

HARLINGEN — Some had never spoken in front of a group before. They certainly had never spoken with eight judges, a timekeeper and a video camera rolling to capture their every move.

A total of 11 JROTC students from around the Valley attended the 10th annual “Way to Happiness” scholarship competition hosted and run by Harlingen Family Dentistry.

After an afternoon of speaking about their JROTC community projects and how it fits in with the “Way to happiness” 21 precepts and the JROTC Core Values, a total of $6,000 in scholarships was awarded.

Harlingen High School’s Ezelina Lopez took home the top spot and $3,000. Rio Hondo’s David Garate grabbed second and $2,000 and Porter High School’s Daniel de la Cruz was third and received a $1,000 scholarship.

In the competition, members of the local high school JROTC programs presented activities they had personally participated in and led in an effort to implement the precepts contained in the “Way to Happiness” book and the JROTC values.

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

Lopez’s focus was on child abuse and her JROTC’s help at Maggie’s House. Her speech included child abuse statistics and discussing the story of Harlingen’s Maggie Dittman who was shaken to death by her babysitter many years ago. Her passionate speech showed she cared much about her project and children.

Garates’ project was a blood drive held at the school in which the group he led doubled the expectations of collection.

All participants received certificates from Sen. Ed Lucio and a commendation from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. They were told their efforts were something to be proud of and to honor.

To qualify for the competition, the 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.


Jose A. Jimenez – San Benito

Miguel Pedraza – Los Fresnos High School

Kimberly Valdez – Harlingen High School South

Julyssa Balderas – Harlingen High School South

Luisa Gomez – Weslaco High School

Daniel Mora – Edinburg North

Jose Cisneros – Porter High School

David Garate – Rio Hondo

Ezelina Lopez – Harlingen High School

Diana Munoz – Weslaco High School

Daniel de la Cruz – Porter High School

Ramiro Ferrer – McAllen High School – was unable to compete due to illness