• Urban Educator logo

Dallas Urban Educator of the Year Awards $10,000 Green-Garner Scholarship

  • Kamila Vargas, a 2021 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, has been awarded the $10,000 Green-Garner Scholarship, based on her high academic performance and strong character.

    Vargas was chosen by Dallas Schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, recognized as the 2020 Urban School Educator of the Year and recipient of the Green-Garner Award at the Council of the Great City Schools’ virtual 64th Annual Fall Conference. The award is sponsored by the Council, Cenergistic, Curriculum Associates and K12 insight. 

    “I feel so lucky to be chosen,” said Vargas. “When I got the news that I had won the scholarship, I felt really happy that they had read my story and that I was being seen.” 

    Vargas’ parents came from Mexico when they were in their early twenties–her dad from the northern state of Durango and her mother from the southern state of Guerrero– and settled in Dallas. However, six years ago their lives were transformed by the sudden deportation of her father. Her mother stepped in to provide for the family and Vargas also assumed a supportive role for her brother. 

    “It was very tough on all of us, because my dad was the main support of our family,” Vargas said. “But my mom worked really hard, long hours to provide for us. She made sure that we were well mentally and physically, and she inspired me to keep pushing for more opportunities and in my academics.” 

    Despite the distance, technology has played an important role in keeping the family together. “Thank God, we have these phones, because we are able to see each other's faces,” said Vargas. “We call each other as much as possible and we spend time telling stories over the phone. It can be a little awkward to not see each other in person, but it also makes me feel like we are together again.” 

    Her teachers at Thomas Jefferson High School noticed her commitment from the very beginning. They praised her as a hard-working student, highlighting her work ethic and close attention to detail, as well as her ability to work with others. "Kamila is an amazing student and her hard work and academics prove that she is determined to succeed in her plans,” said Alejandra Chavez, campus advisor for the Education is Freedom higher ed support program.

    One element of Varga’s character that her teachers highlighted is that she’s always presenting her culture in the proudest way that she can. And as a future major in radio and television, first at Dallas College at Brookhaven and then the University of Texas at Austin, she wants to help transform the way Latinos are portrayed in popular media. “I really want to see us being something other than drug dealers or housemaids or gardeners,” said Vargas. “I want to show that we have stories in which we are the main characters.”