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Hialeah High Junior Receives $250,000 Surprise

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Natalie Antunez (Source: CBS4)

Natalie Antunez (Source: CBS4)

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HIALEAH (CBSMiami) – Hialeah High School Junior Natalie Antunez was nervous when she stepped into her school library with her friends, her parents, and her teachers Thursday morning.

They thought they were going to be interviewed because Antunez was a finalist for the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship Fund, a $250,000 scholarship valid at any university.

“I kept asking them ‘Are you ok? It’s gonna be fine, just be honest’,” said Antunez.

She was surprised when she saw Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho there. But still, she didn’t know what was to come.

“You want to be a cardiothoracic surgeon?” asked Carvalho. She responded yes.

Carvalho pointed out, “That’s very good, that’s very expensive to go to school for. Very expensive.”

She nodded.

It wasn’t until Carvalho said the words Antunez had been longing to hear that she realized her life was about to change.

“I’m here to announce to you that you are the recipient of…,” said Carvalho.

Before he could finish his sentence, Antunez threw her hands to her face and said, “Oh my God!”

The room erupted with applause and she tightly hugged her crying mother.

Antunez was one of only five students in the country to receive the $250,000 scholarship.

Antunez deserved it. She’s earned a 5.8 GPA, 600 community service hours and numerous Advance Placement credits.

“You’re very deserving,” Carvalho told her.

“Thank you so much, thank you so much,” said Antunez as she hugged the superintendent.

With dreams of being a heart surgeon and studying at a top medical school, Antunez was worried about how she and her family would pay for it.

“It doesn’t feel real. I have a future,” she said.

“You always had a future,” said Carvalho.

“No, it’s easier to actually plan now. It’s possible now,” said Antunez.

Despite all her hard work, she credited her family and teachers for her success.

“I have a lot of people to thank, this isn’t just me and I’m very thankful,” she said.

Now that paying tuition is not a concern, Antunez plans to apply to Harvard and Stanford.

Carvalho said we should all be proud that this public school student from an immigrant family is achieving so much. He said she represented the best of us all.

He’s also proud that she attends Hialeah High School, a school that used to be considered low-performing, but has recently improved.

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