High school students Amanda Lira of Edinburg and Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco were named Students of the Year on Monday, April 6 by the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program at The University of Texas at Austin.

Each student received a $2,000 college scholarship funded by a gift from the Exxon Mobil Foundation. The Migrant Students of the Year were selected on the basis of obstacles overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities and their performance in distance learning courses in the university’s Migrant Student Program.

Castillo and Lira were among 40 migrant students honored in the ballroom of the Texas Union for their exemplary achievements during the university’s annual Exemplary Migrant Student Recognition Ceremony.

“These students go well beyond what is expected of any student,” said Dr. Felipe Alanis, associate dean of Continuing Education and director of the K-16 Education Center. “The kind of strength, courage and talent these students demonstrate every day is an inspiration to everyone around them: their fellow students, their families, their instructors and their employers. They make me very proud to play a part, however large or small, in the advancement of migrant students in Texas.”

Lira, the daughter of Francisco and Delma Sanchez, is one of seven children in her family. After her father died when Lira was three years old, Lira’s mother and family struggled to overcome their difficulties together — as a family. Each year, Lira and her family migrate to Bowling Green, Ohio, where she picks cabbages and tomatoes. Despite the hardships of being a migrant student, Lira is excelling at Johnny G. Economedes High School. She will soon graduate early in her third year of high school.

Among her academic achievements is earning the “E” Award

in English, a place on the A/B Honor Roll and a 3.9 grade-point average, making her one of the top 10 migrant students in her class.

Lira also is involved in a number of extracurricular activities. She plays the bass clarinet in the band and advanced to state competition with her solo ensemble. She also is a member of the National Honor

Society, the “Sky’s the Limit” Migrant Club, Spanish Club, Educational Talent Search Trio and the Green Club. During her spare time, Amanda works with the Image for Conservation organization. She also has accumulated 145 hours of community service helping migrant farm workers translate and fill out forms. In fall 2009, Lira plans to attend Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where she will pursue a major in English and a minor in Spanish. She aspires to become a counselor.

In addition to the two “Students of the Year,” three additional

exemplary migrant students were each awarded $2,000 college scholarships from the Exxon Mobil Foundation at the event. Pedro Fuentes from C.C. Winn High School in Eagle Pass, Texas, Diana Gutierrez from La Joya Senior High School in La Joya, Texas and Jessica Rios from Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg, are the recipients of these scholarships.

Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student

Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements.