TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The eighth class of Rusk High School alumni graduated Tyler Junior College through the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Academy.

The program covers up to two years at TJC for Rusk students who graduate in the top half of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Students must reside in Rusk ISD and have attended Rusk High School for 11th and 12th grades.

TJC says this program is the first of its kind in Texas. Graduating seniors were given cords to wear at TJC’s commencement last week, with colors representing their status as alumni of both RHS (red and black) and TJC (gold and black).

“Of the 12 students graduating, seven are graduating with honors,” said Megan Cumbee Burns, senior manager of TJC scholarships and the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise. “As a group, all students being recognized in this cohort have accomplished a 3.2 cumulative GPA, continuing to outperform their counterparts within the TJC student population in hours and cumulative GPA. This great accomplishment is due to the students’ hard work and dedication.”

The 2023 Rusk Promise scholars are:

  • Mya Bowden, pursuing a general studies degree
  • Carrie Boykin, pursuing a game and simulation development graphics degree
  • Gabriel Bradshaw, pursuing a welding technology degree
  • Kenneth Chihuon, graduating with honors, with a general studies degree
  • Cody DeBord, pursuing a mathematics degre Lane Gilchrest, graduating with honors, with a general studies degree
  • Erika Gonzalez-Alonso, graduating with a general studies degree
  • Victoria Green, graduating with honors, with a general studies degree
  • Jett Jenkins, graduating with honors, with a criminal justice degree
  • Balleigh Jones, graduating with an education degree
  • Makayla Jones, graduating with honors, with a pre-nursing degree
  • Dalton Martin, graduating with honors, with a network technology degree
  • Kyleigh McClure, graduating with a psychology degree
  • Raven Moore, pursuing a general studies degree
  • Brayden Pike, pursuing a biology degree
  • Rickey Sadler Jr., graduating with an automotive technology degree
  • Madison Stanford, pursuing a pre-nursing degree
  • Marcos Torres, pursuing a general studies degree
  • Grace Veitch, graduating with honors, with a visual communications degree
  • Jazmin Vences, pursuing a science degree
  • Landen Weaver, pursuing a computer science degree
  • Macy Woodruff, graduating with a general studies degree
Front, from left: Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement; Dr. Juan Mejia, TJC president and CEO; Jazmin Vences, Kyleigh McClure, Raven Moore, Erika Gonzalez-Alonso; Jim Perkins, Citizens 1st Bank-Tyler president, and practicing attorney; Margaret Perkins, Citizens 1st Bank director; Madison Stanford, Macy Woodruff, Makayla Jones, Grace Veitch, Carrie Boykin, Victoria Green; Dr. Deana Sheppard, TJC provost and vice president for academic and student affairs; Megan Burns, TJC senior manager of scholarships and the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise; second row, Jim Wood, senior vice president, Citizens 1st Bank, Tyler; Cody DeBord, Gabriel Bradshaw, Dalton Martin, Lane Gilchrest, Jett Jenkins, Kenneth Chihuon, Brayden Pike, Marcos Torres, Rickey Sadler Jr.; Charles Hassell, executive vice president, Citizens 1st Bank; and Kevin Fowler, TJC executive director for regional community engagement.

“Receiving the Rusk Promise opened an opportunity to go to college, which was an opportunity that my parents didn’t have, nor did many other first-generation students,” Erika Gonzalez-Alonzo said. “It opened a path to furthering my education and making my dream of becoming a family lawyer come true, little by little, and it opened a path to future first-generation students to go to college and to not give up on their dreams.”

Alonzo was a member of the TJC Speech and Debate team and the Hispanic Student Association and plans to attend UT Tyler to continue her education.

“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know what college would be about,” Gonzalez-Alonzo said. “I had no one to go to for questions or to ask what college was like. Going to college was a dream that I wasn’t sure would come true. It was talked about in my family almost every day, and my parents always told my sister and I to work hard for our dreams and that they will come true — and so far, they have.”