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Nely Muñoz sez: ‘Don’t Mess with Texas!’

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Utopia High School graduate Nely Muñoz is the 2016 grand prize winner of the annual Don’t Mess with Texas® scholarship.

Nely Muñoz, a senior at Utopia High School and Vanderpool resident, has been designated as the grand prize winner in the annual Don’t Mess with Texas® scholarship. She was awarded the $6,000 scholarship for sharing the program’s litter-prevention message with her community. This year, more than 1,300 high school seniors applied for the scholarship.
According to a press release from the Texas Department of Transportation, Muñoz received the scholarship due to her “exceptional efforts to both clean up trash in her community and change the recycling habits of her peers.” Litter she observed on the side of a road during long bus rides from her home in Vanderpool to Utopia High School inspired her “to make a difference.”
Walking more than 20 miles along Highway 187, Muñoz personally collected more than 2,171 cans, 200 plastic bottles, 75 feedbags and 670 pounds of trash and recyclables. The project took more than 40 hours to complete. To sustain the project and keep the road litter-free, Muñoz recruited local businesses to adopt the stretch of highway between Vanderpool and Utopia through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
“It is my honor to be doing something to try and conserve our planet and keep it clean,” Muñoz said.
Ironically, the “Don’t Mess with Texas” litter prevention campaign started 30 years ago – long before Munoz was born. The awarding of the annual scholarship recognizes the achievements of high school seniors who have taken leadership roles to prevent litter in their schools and communities.
In addition to her litter abatement efforts, Muñoz also served as president of Utopia High School’s recycling club, “Gang Green,” and educated the student body about litter control and recycling by giving classroom presentations, making posters and leading trips to the local recycling center. She was recognized for her scholarship award at the Utopia High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 28. Muñoz is the daughter of Lupe Trejo and Martha Muñoz of Vanderpool.
Winning entries were selected based on essays that students submitted detailing creative and-or sustainable solutions they promoted to prevent litter and build awareness of the Don’t Mess with Texas® initiative.
“As the number of residents in our state continues to grow, it’s important to share the message that keeping our state and environment litter free is a Texas value,” said Suzanne Kho, executive director of Keep Texas Beautiful. “Nely Muñoz is helping to build that awareness among her generation, and we are pleased to honor her work with this scholarship.”
A partnership between Keep Texas Beautiful and TxDOT, the scholarship is sponsored by the real estate company Forestar. The annual contest awards one $6,000 grand prize scholarship and two $2,000 scholarships to Texas high school seniors currently attending public, private or home school who plan to pursue a two- or four-year degree at an accredited university or college in Texas starting in the summer or fall. This year’s scholarship recipients also included Eugena Choice of Sugar Land and Destiny Scaief of Woden.
This is the 13th year of the Don’t Mess with Texas® Scholarship contest. Since its inception, the scholarship program has provided more than $70,000 in college scholarships to Texas high school seniors.
The Bandera County Courier congratulates Nely Muñoz on her outstanding achievement.