Award-winning math teacher, scholarship kept him at NIU. Today, Jose Zaragoza is an award-winning teacher at Neuqua Valley High School where he’s helping create an innovative curriculum for advanced students. But it wasn’t long ago when Jose was a student himself and was dealt a raw, sudden challenge. “I remember sitting up at night wondering what to do,” he says. Just one year short of graduation, Zaragoza was unable to pay his tuition and was faced with the prospect of having to drop out. Then he received his scholarship letter. “When I told my mom that I got it, she cried with relief. All it took was my dad’s hand on my shoulder to know that he would sleep well that night.” Jose had been chosen for the Anna Larson and Mary Jane Larson Baird Scholarship. One year later, Zaragoza walked across the stage at graduation as the first in his family to earn a college degree.