Jessica Aguayo-Huizar ’20 is the 2017 recipient of the “Realizing the Dream” scholarship at Valparaiso University.

Recognizing outstanding academic success and persistence, the “Realizing the Dream” annual award is a $2,500 scholarship given to first-generation sophomore students who excelled during their freshman year. Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., this award honors one student at each of the 30 member institutions of the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), a nonprofit association that works for excellence and choice in higher education for all students.

Aguayo-Huizar is a management major from Valparaiso, Indiana. She is a member of Latinos in Valparaiso for Excellence and is committed to community outreach. Over the past four years, Aguayo-Huizar served more than 500 hours as part of a life skills program, assisting kids with down syndrome, autism, and other pervasive developmental disorders.

“It is my privilege to represent such a prestigious, intellectual, and innovative institution,” Aguayo-Huizar said. “I walk the sidewalks of Valparaiso University, and I feel pride in myself, the professors and this institution.”

As a freshman, Aguayo-Huizar was impacted tremendously by Stacey Cassady, lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences, who served as her Valpo Core professor.

“Core shaped the person I am today,” Aguayo-Huizar says. “Professor Cassady gave me a reason to push on. Her class had me thinking non-stop. It opened my heart and mind.”

Cassady shows great excitement and appreciation for students like Jessica, highlighting the connection that Valpo students have with their professors. Valpo students learn from their professors and get the attention that they need to be successful.

“Jessica is a wonderful person who understands the value of perseverance and hard work. She is dedicated and deep-thinking, but remains reachable and in-touch with others,” Cassady said. “She balances her schoolwork with work at the family business, Woodfire Meat Market, setting an example for her siblings and other relatives. A daughter of immigrants, she makes the most out of every opportunity and remains kind, generous, and compassionate. With all these assets combined, she deserves more than this award.”

Aguayo-Huizar and the other 29 scholarship recipients were honored and presented with their awards at a banquet on Saturday, Nov. 4 in Indianapolis.