H.L. Bourgeois senior earns $1 million in scholarships

Valente Hernandez Bautista Jr. won’t be the first Terrebonne Parish high school student to leave the bayous for the Ivy League.

But the H.L. Bourgeois senior will be one of the few to do so when he begins his freshman classes at Yale University, one of three very exclusive schools to offer him not only admission but scholarship privileges.

Valente is such a hot student property that the total of scholarships he has been offered hovers around the million-dollar mark.

“I just kept taking the hardest classes that were available, focusing on my academics,” said Valente, who kept up a good presence outside the classroom as well. “I did cross country and track, some community service with the Interact Club, the Rotary, and the National Honor Society.”

Soft-spoken and modest, Valente credits non-stop support from friends as well as the faculty at H.L.B. with much of his success, although he doesn’t lose sight of the role his hard foot-work played.

In addition to Yale, Valente had invites from the U.S. Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and Amherst College in Massachusetts. Part of his scholarship award will require involvement with the ROTC at school, with a commitment to the Marine Corps. When he graduates, it will be with a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant commission.

“I do like political science, political philosophy and international relations,” said Valente, who at this point is exploring classes involving mechanical engineering. He has an interest, as well, in aerospace.

He is eager to serve a nation that he sees as having given him tremendous opportunity.

“When I look at my family and their heritage, their life story, how my parents and grandparents grew up and the conditions they were brought up in, a great amount of poverty, yet they were able to come here and I was able to thrive,” Valente said. “That is the environment America has given me, and the inspiration to one day serve the country that has given so much to me and my family.”

Valente was born in Naples, Fla., the son of Valente Hernandez Guerrero, a carpenter and construction worker by trade, and Natividad Bautista Hernandez. His mother is native to the small town of Atotonilco, near Ixmiquiltan in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. His father is from Miahuagla, also in Hidalgo. His mother and grandmother live in Mexico. His father is out of state working on projects.

Asked about being the son of Mexican people living in the U.S. during a time of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment – much of it focused on his parents’ homeland – Valente acknowledged that there are concerns.

Although his father is considered a permanent U.S. resident, Valente has heard of errors authorities have made with people similarly situated.

“It has not had a concrete effect on my family, but have heard stories where for certain infractions they could be at risk,” Valente said. “While it has not affected me directly, I feel sympathetic toward the rest of the people who do not have the same luxury.”

He recognizes that his own success to date can serve as a source of inspiration for others, and example of how “if you are looking at the right places the U.S. has massive amounts of opportunities.”

He hopes in particular that his path will inspire friends and their siblings to take the risk of looking outside the box.

“I am hoping that more students from areas like south Louisiana will put themselves out there beyond the state line,” he said. “That was a factor in my decision, going to an Ivy League school with successful and diverse people around me with amazing accomplishments. Also being in the military environment will make me a better leader.”

Valente said his success has not gotten to his head, and that he recognizes the importance of humility.

“Many times I asked do I even deserve to be applying, would I even be considered,” he said. “but my peers propped me up and gave me moral support … I feel relly humbled and excited and anxious to get out there and see what it’s like.”

Valente Hernandez Bautista Jr.COURTESY