WACO, TX — Waco High School students were recognized for their academic achievement. One young man's big moment has a powerful message.
"Here's your jacket. Congratulations," said WHS Counselor Sara Miller as she handed Rolando Marquez his letterman jacket.
The 16-year-old savors the moment.
"They design them. They pick them out. So today is a big day," said Miller.
The Superintendent Scholar earned above a 96.5 GPA at Waco High School and takes multiple honors and AP courses.
"Hold on. Let me clean my tears," said Rolando's Grandmother Annette Marquez.
But the letterman jacket is just part of his story.
"I know she's watching over me. I not only do this for myself but for her too," said Rolando.
Ten years ago, Rolando and his little brother were with his mom, Tina on New Year's Eve. After a night at church, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver.
"When we got the phone call at 4 o'clock in the morning that their mom got killed by a drunk driver, it was devastating for all of us," said Annette.
Annette remembers one of their last conversations.
"She said if anything ever happened to me I want you to take the boys. And I said don't talk like that. And then a month later it happened and all I could hear was her voice telling me that. So I had to step up," said Annette.
She adopted the boys.
"She means a lot to me. She's done a lot for me and my brother and I'm just thankful for her," said Rolando.
But his mother's memory never fades.
"Every year we celebrate her and we talk about her and when they were little I'd say come on let's talk about mama and they would sit on either side of me and we'd talk about her. I pray a lot that God keeps them focused and on the right path," said Annette.
Rolando is focused on his future and making both his mother and grandmother proud.
"What I have to say is whatever you go through the circumstances, you can do it," said Rolando.
Including, forgiving that drunk driver.
"I know she's watching over us and I know she's proud of them. I know she is," said Annette.
The family has been active with the Non-profit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Annette says the man who killed Tina served six months in prison and was ordered to put flowers on her grave every year.
Rolando looks forward to college when he graduates in 2022.