Top students at Harlingen Collegiate share triumphs, challenges as they graduate

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HARLINGEN — All those college hours on top of a high school curriculum is enough to send anyone running scared.

That’s hard enough for anyone, but for Joseph Montoya, 18, he had to battle with his life-long habit for procrastination. Perhaps his procrastination provided him the opportunity to push forward with an even greater exertion and acquire that extra discipline.

That challenge so prompted Joseph to work harder that he graduated Friday from Harlingen Collegiate High School as this year’s valedictorian.

“It’s certainly an honor,” said Joseph. “I’ve been working hard at school since elementary school, and to finally get that sense of delayed gratification feels really good.”

Valedictorian is of course a fine achievement at any school, but attaining this title at Harlingen Collegiate showed an extra amount of vigor.

“I think the biggest part was making sacrifices,” he said. “Even though I’m a lazy person and I absolutely don’t like doing work, I still decided to push through it. Sometimes I stayed up late after I’d procrastinated so I could complete my assignments.”

Joseph plans to attend the University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley where he’ll study for a bachelor of science in nursing. He’ll then pursue a master’s degree to become a physician’s assistant.

Salutatorian Mattias Mata, 18, was rather “shocked” when he learned of his placement in the number two spot at Harlingen Collegiate.

“Throughout high school, freshman, sophomore, junior, I was up in the ranks, top ten,” Mattias said. “But I didn’t think I would ever get close to being valedictorian or salutatorian, so it was shocking and amazing to me.”

Everyone in the top ten had worked extremely hard, too. They had done their best, everyone had done their best, he said. But somehow, suddenly, he found himself in the number two spot.

And he’s not quite sure how he did it.

“I didn’t really have any routing or any study schedule in place,” he said. “In lectures and lessons I just sat myself down and paid attention and asked questions. I interacted whenever I wasn’t sure of anything. I spent time digging my nose into the presentations, and that worked for me.”

Mattias plans to study criminal justice at UTRGV and become a crime scene investigator.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct Joseph Montoya’s name.