Immigration: Narrowing the Education Gap

Working hard is in Estela Avila's DNA.

She's the head presser at GK's Cleaners & Laundry in Flower Mound, where owner Jill Collins calls Estela a leader.

"She's just dependable as can be, which now-a-days, sometimes can be hard to find," Collins said.

Estela's worked there for seven years, and when her shift ends, she heads straight to her second job at a fast food restaurant.

"To have extra money," Estela explained. "I have two jobs to get ahead."

A 50-year-old single mom, Estela is determined to do whatever it takes. She's been doing it her whole life, to support her son Anthony.

"As a child I always told him, I'll always support you," she said. "I'll always be there when he needs me. I'm very proud of him.

Three years ago Anthony graduated from Lewisville High School. He was part of the school's AVID program, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

"We look at those kids who have the potential to be better," former AVID coordinator Grant Whilhite said. "The students just haven't had that push from a teacher or a parent to say 'hey, you can go to college and you can fulfill the dreams that you want to have.'"

It's a voluntary program designed to help kids get into college. Since it launched 10 years ago, students at Lewisville High School have earned nearly $14 million in scholarships.

At Lewisville roughly 60 percent of the kids in the program are Hispanic, and by high school, many of them have already surpassed the formal education that their parents received.

In her native Mexico, Estela finished her schooling at age 12.

New numbers highlight the education gap between native Texans and immigrants who work in the Lone Star state. Data journalist's with NBC news found 14,118 Texans say their education stopped after 4th grade.

But that number jumps up to 193,703 people when immigrants answered.

"My parents didn't have the money for us to study," Estela said. "I had 12 siblings and we only went through primary school. I don't want anyone to live the way I have, or suffer the way I have. I want him to do better than me.

"I don't think I've ever heard her say that," Anthony responded. "It honestly shocked me when she said that. It just goes to show how much she's worked, that she thinks that's what normal people do."

Estela's hard work is paying off.

Anthony earned a scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, where he's an honors student in the engineering school.

His mom's devotion, drives him to always do his best.

"That's what I think of," Anthony said while fighting back tears. "Because I love her."

Anthony is just two years away from graduating with a degree in computational engineering, and one day he dreams of working at NASA.

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