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An Early Head Start

Jun 19, 2015 06:00PM ● Published by Ty Gorton

West Jordan Middle School scholarship winners Jesus Lino and Allegra Erznoznik with Principal Dixie Crowther.

By Karena Rogers

Ever wish you could go back in time to impart some wisdom to your eighth-grade self? There are two exceptional kids at West Jordan Middle School who most likely won’t ever have to reflect on that concern. 

Jesus Lino and Allegra Erznoznik were recently awarded the distinguished Joseph R. and Mary K. Gardner Scholarship, which pays them each $20,000 toward their college educations. The scholarship is awarded only to West Jordan Middle School students who meet the following criteria: students must live in temporary housing, students will be first generation college attendees and students must maintain a 3.0 GPA. They are also required to graduate from West Jordan High School and attend a Utah college. Of the eight applicants, these two kids stood out.

“I know how much this will impact my life,” Allegra said. Allegra is active in the school’s STEM program, a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach to these studies and aims to move students from the middle of the pack to the top of the pack in the international arena, advancing students’ understanding of the material. “I really want to go to college, and now I have that opportunity. It’s not just a dream anymore,” Allegra said. She lives with her retired grandparents and plays softball in her downtime.  

Jesus’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. “My parents are both janitors. My sister and I want to go to college. Now that I have the scholarship, it relieves the pressure on my parents to pay for school,” he said. Aside from being an outstanding student, Jesus excels in advanced volleyball, tennis and badminton.  

The Joseph R. and Mary K. Gardner Scholarship was created by Joe Gardner in memory of his parents, Joseph and Mary. The Gardners instilled in their four children the importance of education. Neither Joseph nor Mary graduated college, but all of their children did. 

“Two of us also went on to earn graduate degrees,” said Andrea Hinojosa, daughter of Joseph and Mary, who also teaches American history at West Jordan Middle School and oversees the scholarship. “We all worked full-time throughout college, in addition to taking out student loans to pay for our schooling.” 

Joe and his siblings wanted to pass on their parents’ passion for education to more children, especially those who might not be able to otherwise obtain the opportunity of a college education. “Knowing that this money is already there, in eighth grade, is a big deal to these kids,” Hinojosa said. 
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