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Maize High School student wins prestigious Gore Scholarship

Maize High School senior Lesly Hernandez has seen her parents’ sacrifices validated in her recent accomplishment of recently winning a Harry Gore Memorial Scholarship. The $64,000 scholarship will allow her to attend college without any financial burden and attend school at her father’s alma mater. Lesly competed in the 2022 Distinguished Scholarship Invitational at Wichita State University (WSU) earlier this school year.

“Both of my parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico in search of opportunity and security,” Lesly said. “I wanted to ensure their selfless efforts weren’t in vain.”

Photo of Lesly Hernandez holding her scholarship certificateGrowing up, Lesly’s parents showcased two different types of education: Her mom was not able to continue her education after 8th grade because of the financial strain, while her dad went on to complete both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Engineering. Both situations taught Lesly, who has aspirations to be a “voice for the voiceless” as an attorney helping those in the immigration system, the value of education, hard work, and love. 

“I am a witness and product of my dad’s dedication to schooling,” Lesly said. “We moved to Wichita when I was young so my dad could attend WSU. He worked night shifts, attended class during the day, and continued to provide for his family.”

Through this upbringing, she has learned to push past any obstacle and have a mindset of perseverance. She is thankful that Maize USD 266 values and offers opportunities to learn from teachers and other students while striving to improve the community. During her time at Maize High School, she has been an active member of the Multicultural Club, has served as Senior Class President, has been a member of the National Honors Society, and is the first chair alpha violin in the orchestra while staying on top of her studies. 

“Maize has a strong commitment to hiring employees that make a positive impact on students,” she said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to learn from teachers and students who strive to make the world a better place.”

As a Gore Scholar, Lesly was among 14 high school seniors from across Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma chosen as a finalist out of 483 students who competed in the WSU Distinguished Scholarship Invitational, according to the university. WSU reports that the Harry Gore Memorial $64,000 scholarship is among the largest undergraduate awards in the Midwest.

Maize High School Gifted Facilitator Leigh Johnson said that Lesly is a tenacious leader.

“Lesly was highly involved and capable, even in middle school, and at no point in her school career has she stepped back,” Johnson said. ”She has always been a student with great potential, one who enjoys a good discussion, considers others’ opinions, and knows when to lead.” 

Lesly said that staying true to her identity was the most challenging situation to navigate during her education. 

“I didn’t always share the same ethnic background as my classmates, which encouraged me to be a representation of my culture in classes and clubs,” she said. “I’m excited to join the Shocker community and participate in activities offered by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and learn at a diverse campus with new cultures to experience.”

When she begins her academic career at WSU in the fall, she plans to study political science with her sights set on law school with a future career in public defense of immigration law to help those who have been oppressed by the immigration system.