Valencia High School student wins car for academic success

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The sunny day couldn’t have been brighter for Marlisa Kerbs, as she inspected her new car at the Los Lunas Motor Vehicle Division.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia High School graduate and salutatorian Marlisa Kerbs, left, her mother, April Kerbs, center, and Diane Silva, VHS teacher and Renaissance activities coordinator, met at the Los Lunas MVD to transfer the title of a Chevy Cavalier the graduate won in the fifth annual VHS Renaissance car give-away.

She and her mother, April Kerbs, went to pick up the car and get the title from the Valencia High School Activities Coordinator Diane Silva.

The excited young woman won a 1999 Chevy Cavalier in the fifth annual Valencia High School Renaissance car give-away.

It is part of the school’s Renaissance program to recognize student achievement.

The car was donated by Ed Garcia, owner of Garcia Automotive Group in Albuquerque, who made sure that the vehicle was sound, said salesman Tom Hornback, who acted as the liaison.

“He had the paint touched up, the windshield replaced and made sure it was mechanically sound,” Hornback said. “He was insistent that it be a really good car, and hopefully we’ll be able to do it for many years to come.”

Kerbs graduated salutatorian of her graduating class, with more than 20 college credit hours under her belt. She was among the Top 10 seniors with the highest grades who were eligible to win the car, said Silva.

“I’ve always really pushed her and her sister (Chantel) when they were in school, to really do their best,” said April. “I’ve told them, getting an education is the best chance you have to have more options and be able to do what you want to do when you’re older.”

April has raised both her daughters on her own, and both girls have done exceptionally well in school.

Chantel graduated in the Top 10 in 2010, and Kerbs continues the tradition.

She has been an honor student her entire educational career, driven by a personal desire to do well, with her mother’s supportive encouragement.

April just recently returned to school to earn a college degree after a 20-year hiatus.

She is pursuing a degree in education at UNM.

“I’ve always told them, ‘I want you to go to college. You can do it,’ so I thought, if I’m going to tell them, then I need to show them by example,” she said.

During high school, Chantel was dually enrolled in classes such as trigonometry, sociology, engineering and history at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.

Without being able to borrow her aunt’s car, she wouldn’t have been able to get to her classes, she said.

It was a temporary arrangement.

Winning the new car is a permanent transportation solution for the girl, who lives out in the El Cerro Mission area, a relatively remote rural suburb.

“Now, I’ll have my own consistent transportation to college,” said Chantel.

The sparkle in her eyes and smile on her face reveals her excitement and satisfaction.

She is excited to decorate the car to add her personal touch, she said.

This summer, she is taking a couple of her college classes, and in the fall, along with her course work, she might also be a math tutor.

Math is one of her favorite subjects, and she’s good at it, she said.

Chantel is working on getting a job in the federal work-study program, tutoring high school math students for Upward Bound, a UNM community outreach program she is a member of, she said.

Upward Bound provides support to high school students from low-income families and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.

She will continue in the college version, the Student Support Services “On Track” program.

She earned her chance at winning the car through her academic dedication and achievement, Silva said.

“We check their attendance, we also look at if they did AP (Advanced Placement) classes or concurrent enrollment classes with UNM-VC,” she said. “The one that scores the highest points is how we give the car away.”

The students are also required to write an essay on how the car will benefit them in the continuation of their education, she said.

Some of the advanced placement classes Chantel took include macro-economics, biology and government.

A Pell grant and a New Mexico Lottery Scholarship will pay her college tuition and buy her books.

She also has a New Mexico Scholars Freshman Scholarship that will help her with other expenses.

“Try hard and do your best, because it really does pay off,” Chantel said.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.