Memorial High counselor earns VAMOS award

Maria Carrillo remembers being a college student herself and wanting to attain as many scholarships as possible. Now she gets to help her students get the same opportunities she fought so hard to obtain.

A counselor for three years, Carrillo serves as the College Admissions and Scholarships Specialist for McAllen Memorial High School – something each high school in McAllen ISD provides.

Carrillo was recently awarded a plaque by a local program praising her for her outstanding dedication and commitment.

“Ms. Carrillo was awarded the VAMOS Counselor of the Year … at our 2019 Scholarship Banquet back in June,” Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos, McAllen ISD’s Director for College/Career/Counseling said.

Carrillo was selected as Counselor of the Year out of the high schools in Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr Counties. This is the first year VAMOS has recognized a Counselor of the Year. Over the last two years, Carrillo has helped students from Memorial High receive more than $200,000 in four-year renewable scholarships to attend the universities of their choice.

Since 1996, the Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships (VAMOS) has supported the growth of students in Hidalgo, Starr, and Cameron counties.  The organization’s focus is on making the dream of college education a reality. They offer financial support to college-bound high school graduates.

VAMOS has awarded more than $20 million in four-year renewable scholarships to 850 students in addition to providing them with mentoring services.

“Ms. Carrillo has shown dedication in ensuring her students get the financial assistance they need by providing scholarship information and deadlines,” Dr. De Hoyos said. “Because of that, her students get the opportunity to overcome any financial burden they may face that might prevent them from attending the university of their dreams.”

One such scholar Carrillo helped is 2018 Memorial graduate Angeles Silva. Angeles is in college and majoring in Elementary Education.

“Ms. Carrillo is the most selfless and kindest college advisor I have ever come across,” Silva said. “She genuinely cares about every student’s success and future. Thanks to her constant encouragement and motivation throughout my high school career, I was able to earn the VAMOS Scholarship and attend my dream school, St. Mary’s University.”

Carrillo said she remembers she showed up to the VAMOS banquet and was surprised.

“I was humbled that I was selected for that recognition,” she said.

She loves helping students.

“The kids, the students, I love working with them,” she said. “I am a first-generation college student and I have received scholarships myself.”

Her career as a counselor focusing on college scholarships has just started but Carrillo does not expect to stop any time soon.

“This job was perfect for me,” she said. “With my own personal experiences I am able to help other students achieve their dreams and their goals of attending a four-year university or any other college. I see myself continuing this job further down the line.”

Her father served as an inspiration.

“My father is my role model and my goal was not to have my father pay for anything,” she said. “I made it my mission to earn as many scholarships as I could get, and graduate with no student loan debt. I just want to pay it forward. If I can do it, so can my students.”