Defining College, Part I: Mario’s Story


The seniors in Amarillo ISD’s Class of 2017 have been accepted to more than 1,500 universities, colleges, and military and technical programs. All this month, AISD Newswire will focus on telling some of their stories– how each has chosen to define college and how it fits their plan for success beyond high school.



Life is changing rapidly for Mario Valencia. In a few weeks, he’ll graduate from Caprock High School. In July, he’ll move to Plainview. And in August, he’ll take the next steps in his education at Wayland Baptist University. But for Mario, the transition from high school student to college student is punctuated by something remarkable.

“He’s going from being someone who had to pay for cheerleading to cheerleading paying him,” says Caprock High School teacher and cheerleading sponsor Clarissa Rangel.

Mario will attend Wayland on a cheerleading scholarship, something that is a complete reversal of order for the Caprock senior who, just a few short years ago, was saving money for cheerleading necessities like equipment, shoes and summer camp. “He handed me a rubber-banded stack of ones and fives that he had saved up all year long bussing tables at La Fiesta Grande,” says Clarissa.


“My family and my teachers are always telling me if you dream you can achieve it. Caprock teaches us to push ourselves to the limit.”

Ironically, Mario says it was Wayland that first inspired him to take the leap into cheerleading. “I really love the sport and I think the reason I tried out was because Wayland cheerleaders performed at a Caprock pep rally one year and that really inspired me.”

Mario threw himself into the stunts and skills, earning a spot on the coveted UCA All-American cheer team last summer. Clarissa knew Mario could take his love of the sport even further, so she put together a video for Mario to send to college coaches. “The coach at Wayland saw it and she was pretty persistent that she wanted him on her team,” says Clarissa.

Cheerleading is very much an emerging college sport. In December, it was granted provisional status by the International Olympic Committee, the first step in potentially becoming an official Olympic sport. For students like Mario, cheerleading can open some college doors they’d never even considered.  With offers from two other colleges, in March, Mario officially signed the papers to cheer for Wayland on a $4,000 a year scholarship. “My signing day was really emotional. My parents see a bright future for me and they’re so excited,” says Mario, who is pretty excited himself. “I didn’t think I’d make it this far.”

With the support of his family and educators, cheerleading helped Mario define college–and his future as a physical therapist. “My family and my teachers are always telling me if you dream you can achieve it,” says Mario. “Caprock teaches us to push ourselves to the limit. I’m going to reach my goals.”

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