Valedictorian determined to make his deceased father proud (Video)
May 29, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.
Updated May 30, 2013 at 12:30 a.m.
Christobal Saenz, 18, lost his father to cancer when he was 13 years old.
At the time, he was a middle school student living a stone's throw away from the United States-Mexico border in McAllen.
"My dad was always on me about my grades and wasn't afraid to call me out on my character," Saenz said. "I try not to do anything he would have been ashamed of."
Saenz will give the valedictorian speech to the senior class of Victoria West High School on Saturday.
His family moved to Victoria from the Rio Grande Valley before his junior year of high school after his mother married his stepdad, who is originally from the Crossroads.
Before transferring to West, Saenz was also the No. 1 student his sophomore year at Sharyland High School.
Saenz said the key to getting ahead of the pack is desire and humility.
"You just have to really want it," Saenz said. "You have to study and fight for what you really believe in. If you need the help, get the help."
The valedictorian applied to eight universities and was admitted to all or was placed on a waiting list, with the exception of Yale University.
Saenz said he chose to attend the University of Texas-Austin because the rest of the Ivy League schools he was admitted to did not offer him enough financial aid.
"Since I'm a valedictorian, I get my first year at UT for free," Saenz said. "The rest were just far too expensive."
The other colleges Saenz was accepted to were Rice University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is on the waiting list for Stanford University.
His list of favorite authors includes Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and Lord Alfred Tennyson.
The high school senior said he plans to enter the biomedical engineering field to learn more about what he can do to restore cancer patients' damaged organs.
"My dad had lymphoma cancer," Saenz said. "I know he would be proud of the direction I'm going."