HARLINGEN — He’s the first in his family to go to college, and he’s worked hard for it.

“I think the biggest feeling is the pride,” said Christian Cavazos, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School.

“I’m also thinking how proud my parents must feel for me, considering they couldn’t get that opportunity and their children are blessed enough to go to college,” Cavazos said. His younger sister Briana also has her sights set on college.

Their parents, Mark and Leticia Cavazos, don’t have the money to put him through college, but he’s ready for that challenge as well.

“Hopefully, I’ll get it through financial aid and scholarships that I apply for which will not cover all of it but hopefully a good majority,” he said.

He added that he’d probably have to take out student loans to make up the difference like many young college students.

Triumph over struggle seems to run in the family. His cousin graduated a few years back from Texas A&M University – College Station with a degree in mechanical engineering.

“She comes from a similar situation,” he said. “She grew up without a dad. Her mother had to support her and another sister and a younger brother all at the same time by herself. It was really tough at home.”

His cousin worked while in high school and she still managed to graduate in the top 10 of her class.

“She had no money to pay for college but she applied for scholarships and she had to take out student loans,” he said. “That was just sort of what she had to do. She made it through and graduated. She’s been my inspiration.”

He also plans to study mechanical engineering, but while laying the groundwork the past few years on that future, he’s also had a separate trajectory in the process.

The young musician plays the tuba in the concert band, the Sousaphone in the marching band, and bass guitar in the jazz band. It’s the latter he most enjoys.

“In concert band, everybody is important to the ensemble,” he said. “But in jazz, because it’s a little bit smaller, I feel like I have a little bigger role considering it’s just me. I’m the only bass player. I like the attention.”

That might seem like a lot of pressure, but he doesn’t let it get in the way.

“You just try not to think about it because the more you think about it, the more you’ll get stressed out about it,” he said.

He’s used to pressure. After all, his grades are good enough for him to apply at Texas A&M University – College Station, University of Texas – Austin, and UTRGV.

He thanked HHS band director Maria Coronado for encouraging his success and offering direction.

“She likes to tell a lot of stories about her upbringing and just her determination and dedication to the band program,” he said. “And if she has that sort of drive for something that she’s passionate about, then I should have that drive myself when it comes to pursuing my goals.”

Coronado couldn’t say enough about her young student.

“He’s a great young man,” she said. “He’s very respectful, very helpful. You don’t have to ask him to help. If he sees you moving something or doing something, he’ll ask if he can help. I think that’s a great characteristic that he has.”

She also admires his study habits.

“He’s a very studious individual,” she said. “And with the schedule that we keep here in the band program, we’ve got so many activities, and he’s in quite a few of them. He still manages his time very well and he’s able to keep a good GPA.”