Titan salutatorian flourishes at East High School
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PARENTS: David and Blanca Valdez
PLANS: Attend University of Texas and get a dual degree in management information systems
Michael Valdez called himself a standard, small-town kid.
But not many standard kids know how far their height reaches in comparison to the president of the United States.
Michael makes it up to Barack Obama's shoulders - a fact the 18-year-old learned after being one of two students chosen from a 900-participant summer government simulation program to meet the president.
"It definitely made my vision a little more clear of what's possible for a student who's motivated enough," Michael said of meeting Obama.
Michael has already achieved several of his goals, like graduating at the top of his class as salutatorian of East High School. He's also been accepted into a few of the nation's top-tier colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania and University of Notre Dame.
His interests are in government and computer science, two fields decidedly different but equally fascinating to Michael.
He's approachable and a smooth talker - in every good sense of the term - but also skilled behind a screen.
"I really want to be a young entrepreneur, start up websites and sell them," Michael said.
While anticipating his sure-to-be successful future, Michael reflected on what's helped him come this far.
His parents were his biggest supporters (and most reliable chauffeurs), but during his last year in Victoria, Michael found the excitement he needed to get through senior year.
"At Memorial, I flourished, but I think of East really as the crown jewel of my career. I'm so proud to be a Titan," Michael said. "The new schools created a new identity, a new drive and a new culture that increases student aptitude, and it makes students want to learn."
Michael said he plans to go to the University of Texas because in-state tuition and scholarships make it more affordable. He proved why he has been such a successful speech and debate competitor throughout high school when he gave one last sound byte of wisdom for future Titans.
"Live powerfully," Michael said. "Great ideas are not motivated by passion; they're motivated by necessity. And if you see a need in your community, fill it."